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Notes: Mota still tuning up
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04/01/2004  8:18 PM ET
Notes: Mota still tuning up
Perez ready for important season in lefty's career
Guillermo Mota has appeared in just two Major League games this spring. (Jon SooHoo/Dodgers)

VIERA, Fla. -- Guillermo Mota had one of those spring outings that makes the Dodgers glad it's still spring.

Mota was expected to replace setup man Paul Quantrill. But he missed three weeks with a sore elbow and, in his second Major League game back Thursday, retired none of the seven batters he faced. He was charged with six runs (five earned) on five hits, including a three-run homer by Termel Sledge, and walked two.

Mota, in only his fourth spring Major League appearance, said his elbow was fine and he just needed work on his control.

"My arm felt OK," he said. "My changeup and slider is there, I just need to work on fastball location."

Manager Jim Tracy agreed and said Mota remains part of the back of his bullpen for the start of the season even though he admittedly is behind schedule.

    Guillermo Mota   /   P
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 205
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
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"He just needs time on the mound," said Tracy. "I'm not real interested in the results. You just make sure there's no loss in velocity and that he physically checks out OK. He's getting closer to where he wants to be. His stuff and arm strength are where he needs to be."

Mota's ERA soared from 3.00 to 24.00 and he has not pitched on consecutive days, while Dreifort checks in at 5.40. Jose Lima took over for Mota with the bases loaded, retired the three batters he faced and allowed only one inherited runner to score.

Lima apparently has made the club as a long reliever. Wilson Alvarez will join him until and unless he's needed as a fifth starter. Alvarez started a minor league game Thursday and pitched four innings, allowing three runs and two home runs -- one wind-blown.

Management, meanwhile, is debating which of four pitchers will replace Shuey -- Rick White, Brian Falkenborg, Duaner Sanchez or Doug Nickle.

White has the most experience, while Sanchez is out of options and could be claimed if not on the big league club. Falkenborg interests Tracy because he's essentially a starter who could throw multiple innings, which is important on a staff whose starters rarely throw a complete game. Nickle has a 1.80 ERA in seven appearances.

Perez ready: You can ostracize Odalis Perez, as his teammates did last year for speaking out. You can encourage the general manager(s) to trade him, as many officials in the Dodgers organization have done over the last nine months.

But as the Dodgers left Florida Thursday, look who's been the only dominant starter on the staff.

    Odalis Perez   /   P
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 195
Bats/Throws: L/L

More info:
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Stats
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etopps

Perez has been known for a live arm and a lively mouth. He's toned down the latter this spring, but there's nothing wrong with the former. He struck out seven in six innings with one walk Thursday, allowing a pair of wind-blown home runs that pushed his ERA to 1.73.

Perez hasn't declared the Dodgers the team to beat in the West, as he did last spring, but he doesn't lack confidence in his personal ability.

"If I stay healthy the whole year, I'll be on top of the game," predicts the 26-year-old lefthander. "I will be one of the best pitchers in baseball. I know I have the stuff to do it."

For proof, Perez points to his All-Star season of 2002, when he was fourth in National League ERA, tied for fifth in complete games, sixth in innings pitched and nearly threw a pair of no-hitters.

"That year Randy Johnson was the only lefty with better numbers than me," he said.

Last year, though, he slipped. His record went from 15-10 to 12-12, his ERA from 3.00 to 4.52 and his frustration over lack of run support led to comments critical of his teammates and management. Nothing Perez said was inaccurate, but he broke teammate etiquette and paid a price.

"You know the history. We don't score runs," he said. "This year is going to be different. I'm still confident. I had four bad games last year and my ERA went up. I don't think I had a really bad year. I never lost confidence."

Whether the offense is different is debatable, but this year is a pivotal one for Perez because he will be eligible for free agency afterward.

"If I have a good year and the Dodgers sign me, I'll be back," said Perez, who receives $5 million this year. "If I have a so-so year, somebody else signs me and I still have a contract in my hands. This is the time for me to go out and give the best I can to get a long-term contract, a good one."

Record loss: In getting dumped by Montreal, 9-0, the Dodgers' record fell to 12-19. That's the most spring losses in Los Angeles history.

Jose to L.A.: Non-roster infielder Jose Hernandez said he assumes he will make the team and will not invoke an escape clause in his contract Friday, although he will not learn of the final roster until Saturday night. Hernandez and Jason Romano appear to be fighting for the last bench job and both have had excellent springs. Romano is out of options.

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

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