<
>

Young Dodgers dig in vs. Team Australia

SYDNEY -- Three of the players from the Australian national team currently work as delivery drivers. The team's biggest hitting star, Trent Oeltjen, played 99 major league games for the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. Its best-known pitcher, Ryan Rowland-Smith, is a fringe left-handed reliever with a 4.57 lifetime ERA.

But you never know what's going to happen when players are asked to wear their country's colors.

The Dodgers play their first actual baseball game tonight (1 a.m. PT Thursday) against the Aussie national team at the Sydney Cricket Ground. This one, unlike the two games vs. Arizona this weekend, is an exhibition, of course. While pretty much every story involving the Dodgers here is cast as a "David vs. Goliath" tale, that's not quite accurate for this event. The Dodgers' two scheduled pitchers, Zach Lee and Red Patterson, have never pitched in the major leagues.

For a guy like Patterson, a fringe prospect fighting hard for recognition, this exhibition game could help him gain a foothold in the Dodgers' plans. It could help Lee, a first-round draft pick, inch a little closer to the major leagues.

"We’re in Australia. I get to throw against the national team. What more could you ask for?" Patterson said.

Patterson, who turns 27 in two months, could be entering a make-or-break season. He was effective pitching in both relief and as a starter at Triple-A Albuquerque, going 7-4 with a 3.03 ERA at an extreme hitter's park. He had 109 strikeouts and 49 walks. But he doesn't have overwhelming raw ability, and the Dodgers have a strong core of pitchers who could move up from Double-A.

Of course, there's only so much he can do. Patterson had a 0.93 ERA in 9 2/3 innings this spring and he already has been reassigned to the minor leagues.

"I tried to do what I could to get on the radar, show everybody what I could do, and I feel like I accomplished that," Patterson said. "I'll just keep going."