Thurston Sent to the Minors

Times Staff Writer

The job that was Joe Thurston’s to lose was officially lost Saturday night. The Dodger second baseman was optioned to triple-A Las Vegas, as the team trimmed down to 25 players for Monday’s season opener in Arizona.

Ron Coomer, who had four home runs and nine runs batted in this spring, was assigned to the minor leagues, but the third baseman/first baseman probably will return to the Dodgers Friday after reliever Guillermo Mota serves a four-game suspension.

Catcher David Ross was optioned to Las Vegas, meaning the Dodgers will go with two catchers, Paul Lo Duca and Todd Hundley. Outfielder Chad Hermansen was included on the roster the Dodgers submitted to Major League Baseball, but he will go on the disabled list today, and pitcher Derek Thompson was put on the DL.

Among the survivors: Utility player Jason Romano, 23, who hit .162 this spring but impressed the Dodgers with his speed and versatility at all three outfield positions, shortstop and second base; left-handed reliever Steve Colyer, a hard-throwing, 24-year-old who was considered a longshot to make the team; and journeyman left-handed reliever Tom Martin, an even longer shot than Colyer.


Martin, 32, who is signed to a minor league contract, is expected to take Hermansen’s roster spot today; the Dodgers wanted to wait until after Saturday night’s game to make that move in case an injury forced them to change course. When Mota is eligible, either Martin or Colyer will be sent to triple A.

The Dodgers will open with a 12-man pitching staff (including Mota) and a short-handed, five-man bench of Hundley, Daryle Ward, Mike Kinkade, Jolbert Cabrera and Romano.

Thurston, who hit only .241 this spring, will open at Las Vegas, where he had 196 hits last season and played so well the Dodgers didn’t think twice about trading Mark Grudzielanek to the Chicago Cubs in the off-season.

But as Thurston’s struggles continued, the Dodgers didn’t want to risk the possibility of him being overwhelmed in the big leagues. They’re looking for him to regain his confidence at Las Vegas.

“We’re not down on Joe at all, but if he’s not going to play every day, it’s not in his or our best interest for him to be on the big league roster,” General Manager Dan Evans said. “He’s 23, and with some refinement, he can be an everyday player in the big leagues. This is not a failure --he’s just not quite there yet.”

Alex Cora will get most of the work at second base.


Dodger pitcher Darren Dreifort needed only 55 pitches to get through five innings of a minor league game in Vero Beach, Fla., Saturday. Dreifort is scheduled to start the fifth game of the season, in San Diego Friday night.