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Lee, other prospects get taste of L.A.
Team's Winter Development Camp highlights team's legacy
01/08/2014 9:40 PM ET
Zach Lee introduces himself to Don Newcombe at Dodger Stadium.
Zach Lee introduces himself to Don Newcombe at Dodger Stadium. (Josh Jackson/MiLB.com)

LOS ANGELES -- The fields of most Major League ballparks are pretty quiet during the first full week of January. Not the case at Dodger Stadium.

"Mr. Newcombe, how are you?" one prospect said in front of a dugout Wednesday. "I'm Zach Lee."

Lee, Los Angeles' No. 3 prospect, was among 15 Dodgers Minor Leaguers to attend the club's seventh annual Winter Development Camp, which focuses on getting young players more acquianted with the organization for which they play. One aspect of that is meeting former Dodger greats, such as Don Newcombe. Newcombe chatted privately with Lee on the field following morning workouts and addressed the entire group of prospects in the afternoon.

"Any time you're able to interact with a Dodger legend and kind of pick his mind one-on-one, it's really something you take to heart," Lee said. "You're just trying to take knowledge as best as you can to try to better yourself. One of the best ways to do that is to learn from the greats and learn from the legends and learn from history. He's just an abundance of knowledge that you're trying to soak in."

Among the topics Lee and Newcombe covered was "the need to pitch in, pitching in and out, not just pitching on the white but pitching on the black. That's part of the plate too," the 22-year-old righty said. "It's one of those things that you just kind of take pieces and knowledge from each individual guy that you end up talking to this whole entire camp and really kind of make it your own."

Lefty Chris Reed also has enjoyed and learned from the personal conversations at camp, which runs from Sunday through Thursday.

"It's definitely a relaxed atmosphere for us to learn and just talk to some of the legends who you'd normally get to just nervously say hi to," said Reed, ranked three spots behind Lee. "You actually get to talk to them, maybe have dinner.We got to spend an hour with Ron Cey, so we could get to know him better and ask whatever was on our minds."

On Tuesday, famed broadcaster Vin Scully talked to the prospects.

"It was just awesome. We all got to take our picture with him," Reed said. "He's another legend we got to meet, so that was awesome."

But the program is about more than big names.

"The camp is very interesting to me, because you don't usually have this opportunity," said Dodgers GM Ned Colletti. "It serves a lot of different purposes. I think most players will come in here and will leave and if they really think about everything that they saw, everything they heard and the opportunity that they had, it's probably pretty striking to them.

"We do it because we don't want somebody coming up here for the very first time and not knowing the stadium, not knowing where the clubhouse is, not knowing how it works, not knowing something about this city and the environment," he added. "At the same time, it gets our coaching staff the chance to see some guys early. It gets our top prospects, it gets their minds in a place where they start thinking about this more, because it's coming up."

Lee, who attended the program in 2013 when renovations at Dodger Stadium relegated it to Camelback Ranch in Arizona, got a charge out of being able to work out in the big league facility. He found it to be very motivational.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's the best, and we should be the best," Lee said. "Just to be able to play in front of 50,000-60,000 people. ... It's really something that's unreal. Being able to play on the best field in the world is really something to strive for." 

Dodgers vice president of player development De Jon Watson emphasized that the camp is also a chance for Minor Leaguers to get to know Major League coaches. 

"We had [hitting coach] Mark McGwire here, [assistant hitting coach] John Valentin's here," Watson said. "[Manager Don Mattingly] got snowed in, so they missed out on him, but [team president] Stan Kasten, Ned Colletti. ... It's really giving them an opportunity to meet these guys in a relaxing environment, vs. when they get to Spring Training, everybody's competing for a job and it's a little more intense."

Lee understood the importance of this approach.

"In this camp, you're going to have a ton of entertainment and a ton of joy, and it's going to be loaded with information. It's one of those that things that you try to take snippets here and there that will really help you. You're going to be tired. You're going to have long days," he said. "You're going to have short nights, where you may come to the field a little tired, but it's one of those things where you really try to get some information out of each day and really try to improve yourself each day."

Colletti admitted, "Nobody's ever made the big league team out of the Winter Development [Camp]," but definitely sees the value of the program.

"I heard stories a couple of years ago. One of our coaches, I think it was Jody Reed, came up with the Red Sox organization," Colletti said. "When he got called up to the Red Sox, he gets off the plane at Logan Airport, and he says, 'Take me to Fenway Park.' Those of us who've been to Fenway Park, you know it's an older stadium obviously, and it doesn't have a clear marked entrance, and he walked around the ballpark for 20 minutes trying to figure out how [to get] in.

"We don't really want that happening here."

Notes from camp

Not peddling Pederson: Even with a big league outfield that currently has Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier, Colletti is in no hurry to deal the Dodgers' top prospect, 21-year-old outfielder Joc Pederson, who hit 22 homers and posted a .381 on-base percentage in Double-A last season.

"We'll see what the year brings. I like talent, I like depth and I love guys that play hard. I think Spring Training will give us some indication," Colletti said of Pederson's timeline. "I think that there's still some work to be done. I have no doubt he'll be a real good big league player, whether it's at some point in 2014 or more 2015 or summer 2015. We'll see what the game tells us. We'll see how he continues to get better at what he does and he's got to continually get better, but he's going to be a good one."

Pederson admitted he's aware that his name is sometimes included in trade rumors.

"I guess I'm pretty fortunate to be able to be in that situation, but obviously I don't want to get traded. Being a Dodger and in L.A. would be special. It's close to home," said the Palo Alto native."I guess it just pushes me a little harder. I'm not really competing against a normal outfield. You've got four superstars. Makes me a little hungrier, work a little harder in the offseason."

Before reporting to L.A., Pederson put up a .439 on-base percentage and collected 13 extra-base hits over 34 games in Venezuela. The Winter Development Camp served as an immediate reward for some of that offseason work. 

"When they really show you what it's like, it's a pretty awesome feeling. I couldn't imagine what it would be like during the season on an everyday basis," he said. "When you go back to the Minor Leagues, you think, 'I need to get better so I can live that dream, live that life.' This is pretty surreal."

Rojas in blue: Infielder Miguel Rojas, who signed with the Dodgers after seven years in the Reds system, may break Spring Training as Los Angeles' second baseman. 

"Miguel Rojas will get a good look," Colletti said. "Miguel Rojas is an excellent defensive player. He's played more shortstop than he has any place else, but we're expanding that not only with the span of this week a little bit, we'll continue to expand it in the spring. I think he's game for the situation. I think he wants the opportunity, and we're going to give him that chance."

To Rojas, that was an understatement.

"I was looking for this opportunity my whole life, and I'm trying to take advantage of every chance they give me," he said. "They [brought] me here for a reason, and I'm going to Arizona after this to work on second base too. And that's it. The biggest point for me is to be ready for Spring Training and fight for that job. I'm going to try to get it."

The 24-year-old batted .244 last season at Double-A, and he's focused on bringing his offensive game to the level his defense is already at.

"When I was little, I always took more ground balls than hits. That's why I'm a better defensive player than a hitter. That's not an excuse," he said. "When I was in Venezuela when I was little, the fields [were] not as good as they are here in the States. I was taking ground balls on the rocks. I think that's one of the things that helped me as a defensive guy."

Rosin hopes to be sticky: The Dodgers acquired Seth Rosin from the Phillies in a Rule 5 Draft trade with the Mets, and the front office is hopeful the 25-year-old right-hander will stick around.

"Rosin threw out here for the first time. For somebody like that who's new to the organization, [camp] has been phenomenal," Watson said. "He gets so much information, and he's asked some great questions along the way on what it means to be a Dodger."

Colletti believes there are many possibilities for Rosin to remain a Dodger.

"I'm really interested in seeing what he can bring. He's a great arm, very competitive and very sharp. He may be a power arm out of the 'pen, he may be somebody that can pitch multiple innings out of the 'pen, he may end up being a spot starter from time to time," said the GM.

Rosin would be happy in any of those roles.

"I'm just going to give it everything I have, and hopefully I can sneak in, sneak onto this team somehow," he said. "I'm trying to figure out what the Dodgers are looking for me to do, and where I would fit in to make this team. I'm just trying to find my niche here, and just learning from the Dodgers legends and greats we've been talking to has been fantastic. It's a big-time confidence booster for me."

Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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