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A DANDY DOMINICAN : Dodger Prospect Ramon Martinez Needs a Few More Calories, but That's All

February 26, 1988|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

"What I first liked wasn't his body or velocity, because he didn't have it," Avila said. "It was his mental approach and his aptitude. He loved the game."

Martinez was recommended to Avila by a mutual friend who lived in Martinez's neighborhood.

"That was a good day because the guy also recommended Juan Guzman, who we traded to Toronto. It was incredible, both those guys lived on the same block. That happens some time in Santo Domingo."

Pitchers such as Martinez don't come along every day, however.

"When I first saw him work out, I had my doubts," Avila said. "He was 6-2 and 132 pounds. But he showed good mechanics and a good breaking ball and good control. We figured if we put more weight on him, it would improve his breaking ball. He was just a baby then--barely 16 years old."

Martinez, whose childhood idol is Dominican pitcher Mario Soto, turned out to be quite a prodigy. Avila, who also runs the country's national team, included Martinez on the Olympic team. He pitched three scoreless innings against Taiwan in the 1984 Olympics at Dodger Stadium, the youngest player competing in baseball, a demonstration sport during the Games. The Dodgers signed Martinez shortly after the Olympics. He quit high school in Santo Domingo before his junior year.

"The Olympics were very impressive," Martinez said. "When I stepped on the mound, I said to myself, 'This is where I want to be pitching.' "

Could Martinez conceivably make the jump from Double A to the major leagues by the end of the season?

"I think that would be asking a lot," Claire said. "But other people have done it. For example, Fernando made the jump from Double A and had no problem. Steve Howe did it. What's important is that we not rush him.

Meanwhile, the thought of playing in the major leagues apparently doesn't faze Martinez.

"You give him the ball now, and he thinks he can pitch in the big leagues," Avila said. "He's a good kid, a mature kid. He's got a good head over his shoulders."

He's also got a good body below his shoulders, even if there isn't much of it.

Dodger Notes

Pedro Guerrero arrived in camp at 9:54 p.m. Guerrero is expected to report for workouts today. Some Dodger players are already speculating, mostly off the record, about potential adverse effects of Guerrero in the same clubhouse with Mike Marshall and Kirk Gibson. But Steve Sax doesn't believe there will be a problem. "I think it'll be an interesting clubhouse, but that should be the least of our worries," Sax said. "We are all grown up people, and if we can't get along, let's at least fake it, then." . . . Pitcher Ken Howell, coming off shoulder surgery, faced live hitting for 15 minutes Wednesday and felt fine. But when he awoke Thursday, he had trouble lifting his arm arm over his shoulder. "It was really, really stiff," Howell said. "But (Dodger trainers) told me it was normal and not to worry. I've got to bounce back faster. I can't afford to lag behind or I won't even have a chance to make (the starting rotation)." . . . Pitcher Jay Howell, who had missed the previous two days with the flu, returned Thursday but is on a "restricted program," according to trainers. . . . Mickey Hatcher missed Thursday's workout with a lower back strain. It happened a few nights ago, when Hatcher fell down the stairs of his rented house in Vero Beach. "The weird part was that my daughter had just fallen on the stairs, and I was heading down the stairs to tell her to always use the banister, and then I fell."

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