Notes: Sweeney introduces Idol idea

Notes: Sweeney introduces Idol idea

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- With Mark Sweeney in camp, it had to happen.

Sweeney planted the seed, and this week the Dodgers will hold their version of American Idol, popularized the last two springs by Sweeney's former team, the San Francisco Giants, who held a two-day competition of mostly rookies to benefit charity and bolster camaraderie.

Among the Giants' highlights was Barry Bonds in drag portraying Idol judge Paula Abdul. That visual sets the bar mighty high for the Dodgers, who will conduct the shows behind closed clubhouse doors and out of media view. Sweeney first cleared the idea with veteran leaders Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent, among others, and manager Joe Torre issued his approval.

Sweeney promised some singing, most of it off-key, and laughing so hard you could pull a ribcage muscle.

"It brings everyone together," said Sweeney, a 38-year-old, 10-year veteran. "It'll be fun."

Sweeney said a special invitation was extended to and accepted by starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, technically a rookie in the Major Leagues, but a 10-year veteran of Japanese baseball. Kuroda was aware that fellow Japanese import Takashi Saito won over his teammates two springs ago with a Karaoke version of the Beatles' "Hey Jude" in a similar hazing stunt.

"This time Sammy gets to sit back and watch," said Sweeney.

Piazza arrives at Dodgertown: No, not that Piazza.

Vince Piazza, Mike's father, was a Dodgertown guest of Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda; the two grew up in Norristown, Pa. The elder Piazza, who made a fortune in the auto business, was a frequent Dodgertown visitor long before his son became the face of the franchise in the mid-1990s.

The younger Piazza is now 39, unsigned, rehabbing three tears of his rotator cuff while playing the role of father to 1-year-old daughter Nicoletta. He had only eight home runs last year while battling injuries as a designated hitter for Oakland after 15 consecutive seasons of double-figure homers for a career total of 427.

"I've never seen a father like him," said the elder Piazza. "He pushes her in the stroller every day. I don't know whether he'll play again. He had an opportunity in Japan, but didn't go. I was hoping he'd come back to the Dodgers and go into the Hall of Fame as a Dodger."

Piazza is likely to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was a 12-time All-Star, 10-time Silver Slugger and drove in at least 92 runs 10 times. Piazza was the 1993 National League Rookie of the Year. May 14 will mark the 10-year anniversary of his trade to the Marlins.

Kuroda, Loaiza tune up: Kuroda and Esteban Loaiza faced Minor League hitters in a prep for their Friday game appearance in Orlando against the Braves. They threw two innings each, with Torre, general manager Ned Colletti and assistant general managers Logan White and De Jon Watson watching.

Kuroda was pleased with all of his pitches, except for his two-seam fastball, and he worked on a slide-step delivery.

"He was really good," said Torre. "He has very good command on both sides of the strike zone. He has a variety of stuff from the same release point. He doesn't throw anything straight. He knows what he's doing."

Loaiza does not appear to be as far along as Kuroda, and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said a flaw was detected in Loaiza's delivery. The pair will throw bullpen sessions on Wednesday.

Throwing bullpen sessions on Monday were Saito, Derek Lowe, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Beimel, Eric Stults, Scott Proctor and Rudy Seanez. Lowe and Stults are scheduled to pitch in a simulated game on Wednesday.

Scheduled to pitch in Tuesday's intrasquad game are Hong-Chih Kuo, Jon Meloan, Mario Alvarez, Ramon Troncoso, Chan Ho Park, Justin Orenduff, James McDonald and Rick Asadoorian.

Schmidt update: Jason Schmidt hasn't thrown off a mound since Friday, but officials insist there are no setbacks in his recovery from shoulder surgery, and he is scheduled for a bullpen session on Tuesday. He probably will have one more after that, followed by batting practice, a simulated game, a Minor League game and then a Major League game.

An overthrower's delight: A procession of golf carts shuttled Torre, Colletti, White and Watson to the Minor League fields Monday morning to watch four of the organization's top pitching prospects throw.

Torre joined to watch pitchers Clayton Kershaw, James Adkins, Bryan Morris and Brian Akin. The four are among top prospects participating in the early Minor League camp. Morris is returning from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. Kershaw is considered the head of the Dodgers' class and one of the best prospects in the game.

"He was trying to overthrow some pitches," Torre said of Kershaw. "The ball jumps out of his hand. He looks like he has the potential to have a good breaking ball."

Torre said there are plans for Kershaw to make an appearance in Major League camp before the club leaves for China next month.

Union meeting, player rep: The club will have its annual meeting with Players Association leaders on Tuesday. Proctor confirmed that he will be the team player representative. He was assistant to player rep Mike Mussina with the Yankees and went through the last collective bargaining negotiations.

"It was a great experience," Proctor said. "At first, it was like they were talking in German, all that lawyer language. But it gave me an appreciation of what the guys back in the day went through so we have the liberties we now have."

Lockermate Seanez remembers nearly having to sell his house because of the hardships during the 1994 shutdown, and remembers Joe Carter telling young players back in 1989 that the veterans then were fighting for future players.

"Now I understand what he was talking about," said Seanez.

Baby updates: Jason Repko returned after attending to the birth of his first child in Washington State. Rookie pitcher Corey Wade missed practice to be at the birth of his first child in Utah.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.