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Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Cactus League: Padres 3, Dodgers 0

By Tony Jackson

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Offensively, in their final Cactus League game before their only off-day of spring training, the Dodgers performed like a team trying to start its vacation a little early against San Diego Padres right-hander Tim Stauffer, who shut them out on three hits over six dazzling innings. On the mound, though, veteran right-hander Jamey Wright made a loud statement in his bid to capture the only available spot in the Dodgers' bullpen in a 3-0 loss to the San Diego Padres before 6,328 at Camelback Ranch.

With Ted Lilly pushed to the minor league side on his day to pitch because manager Don Mattingly wanted to look at several relievers in the big game, Wright was given a rare start. He responded by pitching two perfect innings, with only one ball being hit out of the infield.

Wright, 37 and almost two decades removed from having been a first-round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies, is in spring training as a non-roster invitee for the seventh consecutive season. Each of the past six years, he has found a way onto the Opening Day roster of whatever team brought him to camp.

But as he went into last winter a free agent once more, Wright figured the 3.13 ERA he had posted in 60 appearances for the Seattle Mariners last season might mean there would be a guaranteed, major league offer for him out there somewhere.

"That was definitely in the back of my mind,'' he said. "I definitely felt this year would be different. But as soon as you get past the new year and nothing has happened, you're thinking, 'Here we go again.' But whether it was a big league deal or a minor league deal, I wasn't going to come in any differently than I have the past seven years. I still have to get ready and prepare and do my work, especially at my age.''

Mattingly remained non-committal on the subject of Wright making the club, stopping short of even saying that Wright had put himself at the head of a pack that includes the non-roster likes of Jon Grabow, Fernando Nieve and Scott Rice, youngster Josh Lindblom and longtime organizational fixture Ramon Troncoso, who is out of minor league options.

But Wright has an escape clause that kicks in on March 25, another fact that would seem to elevate him above the field somewhat.

"It is what it is,'' Wright said. "I'm just happy to be not only in camp but in this camp right now, with the Dodgers. I'm excited about the opportunity and the thought of getting a chance to call Dodger Stadium home.'' ...

Former All-Star reliever Tom Gordon visited camp on Wednesday to see his son, Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon. The younger Gordon would get two more hits in the game, one of them a bunt single to showcase his eye-popping speed, and raise his average for the spring to .343 and his on-base percentage to .425.

"What I like is that he is learning more about himself every day,'' Tom Gordon said. "He is developing an understanding of major league pitchers and what they are going to try to do against him. It's like I told him not too long ago, I said, say you're facing me. I figure because you're so small, I'm going to work inside and try to get the ball in on your hands.''

This could be a big reason for Gordon's rapid development and aptitude, the fact that he has an ex-pitcher around to help him learn how pitchers think. ...

Lilly, by the way, gave up six runs (four earned) on six hits over five innings, walking three and striking out eight. But if results don't mean much in the Cactus League, they mean even less on the minor league side, where there basically is nobody watching other than a bunch of coaches and the atmosphere is that of an intrasquad game, even though Lilly was pitching against Cleveland Indians prospects. ...

The Dodgers (9-6-4) play a split-squad game Friday in Tucson in which several of the organization's promising young arms are expected to pitch. Nathan Eovaldi, who logged some major league time last season, will start. The list of additional prospects who could pitch in that game includes former first-round draft picks Chris Reed, Ethan Martin and Zach Lee. We also could see highly touted prospects Allen Webster and Angel Sanchez. ... Justin Sellers missed the day's workouts because of soreness in his left quadriceps, but he tentatively is expected to return Friday. ... The other split-squad game Friday is in Surprise against the Kansas City Royals, with Aaron Harang scheduled to start.