LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers opened their prospect minicamp to the media on Wednesday for a glimpse of the future, but most of the questions for general manager Ned Colletti were about the present. With one month before pitchers and catchers report to Dodgertown for what likely will be the franchise's last Spring Training in Florida, here's where Colletti stands on the most pressing issues: He said rookie Andy LaRoche and six-time All-Star Nomar Garciaparra will compete for the starting third-base job and neither has an advantage at this point. The Dodgers are not pursuing free-agent third baseman Pedro Feliz or any of the other third basemen with names lighting up Internet message boards.
He said he's "fine with the outfield as it is," meaning Juan Pierre and Andre Ethier are more likely to open camp with Andruw Jones and Matt Kemp than one of them to be traded away. He said it wasn't out of "the realm of possibility" that Ethier could start ahead of Pierre. New manager Joe Torre gets to figure out who plays and who doesn't and gets to dodge that question when he appears at the minicamp on Thursday. Colletti said he's encouraged that Jason Schmidt is progressing in his recovery from shoulder surgery without a setback and has begun throwing off a mound. But trainer Stan Conte cautioned that Schmidt's steady progress is no guarantee that the pitcher will be ready for Opening Day. "We can't be tied to the calendar," said Conte. "It was a complicated surgery and the rehab is just as complicated. We're happy where he's at." Colletti also said negotiations to retain reliever Rudy Seanez and pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney have cooled, in part because of financial differences, but also apparently in part because the Dodgers are starting to believe they have increasing depth as the youth movement advances. The minicamp helps illustrate the point. Among the attendees is Delwyn Young, a hitting machine who is out of options. As a switch-hitting outfielder, Young could quickly become a versatile player off the bench. As could the loser of the battle at third base, particularly if the loser is Garciaparra, who can play all over the infield as a super utilityman and clutch late-inning pinch-hitter. Whichever outfielder is odd man out also bolsters the bench. Tony Abreu figures to be one backup infielder and, assuming everyone's healthy, there might not be a lot of positions up for grabs this spring, which would work against Chin-Lung Hu making the club as an extra infielder. On LaRoche, Colletti compared his readiness to that of Kemp and James Loney a year ago or Russell Martin or Ethier two years ago. "It's time to give him the opportunity to start with the club and play as much as he can," Colletti said. "He's almost going to have to not make the club, and that's a pretty good spot to be in. That said, if he has a great spring and doesn't make the club, that's not to say he wouldn't be up at some point." On the probability of having veterans such as Garciaparra or Pierre fight for a job, Colletti said: "There's nothing wrong with competition. You have a chance of being a better club, like at third base. Let the players dictate who plays and how often. The situation ought to be debated on the field." Conte said all rehabilitating players continue to progress without setbacks. The list includes Rafael Furcal (ankle, back, shoulder), Hong-Chih Kuo (elbow), Jason Repko (ankle and hamstring), Yhency Brazoban (shoulder), Abreu (hernia) and Scott Elbert (shoulder). Brazoban and Elbert are throwing, Elbert off a mound, but Conte said he isn't sure if Elbert will be 100 percent by the start of training camp. Brazoban signed a contract for $540,000, leaving the Dodgers with three arbitration-eligible players -- relievers Joe Beimel and Scott Proctor and Repko. In addition to Young, Hu, LaRoche and Elbert, prospects attending the two-week minicamp are pitchers Mario Alvarez, Clayton Kershaw, James McDonald, Jonathan Meloan, Greg Miller, Justin Orenduff, Ramon Troncoso and Cory Wade; infielders Josh Bell, Ivan DeJesus Jr. and Blake DeWitt; catcher Lucas May; and outfielder Xavier Paul.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.