BASEBALL / DAILY REPORT : DODGERS : His Motto: Better Late Than Never

He has been released four times in the last 16 months and was once bought by the Milwaukee Brewers for $2,500 and 12 dozen baseballs, but Tim Fortugno, 32, hopes those struggles are long gone.

"I don't know how someone with his ability fell through the cracks," said Jim Bowden, the Cincinnati Reds' general manager.

Fortugno, a left-handed reliever with a good curveball and 92 m.p.h. fastball, was released by the Angels before the 1993 season. He was on his way to joining the San Bernardino Spirit in April when the Reds signed him to a double-A contract. He was called up May 13 and was told it would be a short stay. But Fortugno has given up only one hit in four appearances and 4.2 innings, including two against the Dodgers, and the Reds sent down Jerry Spradlin instead.

Fortugno started pitching late in his career, while attending Southern California College in Costa Mesa. He was 25 during his first minor league season. "Everything has its time, and maybe mine is later," Fortugno said. "Hopefully, it means I have a lot of years left in this arm because it hasn't been used that much."

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