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Dodgers leave Florida spring training home for Arizona

PHOENIX -- The Los Angeles Dodgers left their longtime spring training home in Florida this week. They don't have much time to reflect.

"The fact that we have a lot of work to do keeps us from getting melancholy," manager Joe Torre said Wednesday.

The Dodgers are spending the rest of spring training at the Oakland Athletics' complex in Phoenix, and next year they'll move into a new facility in nearby Glendale, as long as construction is completed. Team owner Frank McCourt has said the move from Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., where the Dodgers trained since 1948, was designed to bring the team closer to its fan base in California.

Part of the team returned to the United States from an exhibition series in China on Sunday and began working out Tuesday in Phoenix. Players who didn't go to China flew to Arizona after playing Tuesday in Florida.

"I feel like I've been gone a month," general manager Ned Colletti said.

Torre said it was good to have everyone back in one place, but there's much to be done before the season opener March 31 against San Francisco.

One of the advantages the Cactus League offers over the Grapefruit League is that of the 12 teams currently training in Arizona, nine are within the Phoenix metropolitan region, separated by 4-47 miles. The other three are 2 hours away in Tucson.

Teams routinely travel more than 100 miles for road games in Florida, and several take trips of more than 200 miles.

Dodgers third baseman Nomar Garciaparra, who has trained in both places during his career, thinks the Cactus League allows teams to get more work in because they spend less time in transit.

"You don't have to sit in a bus for hours and then try to get loose," he said. "You can go through your routine in the same place every day. I think that's really conducive to getting ready."

With so many teams training in the Phoenix area, Garciaparra said when he was a member of the Cubs training in nearby Mesa, he'd see other players driving in their uniforms on the way to exhibition games.

Relief pitcher Mike Koplove, another player who has trained in Florida and Arizona, said he doesn't think the Dodgers will have a hard time adjusting to the desert.

"I don't think there's much of a difference, to be honest," he said. "But the travel's a lot better and a lot of guys make their offseason homes here, so they can stay at home rather than a hotel."

When the Cleveland Indians left Arizona 16 years ago, the Cactus League had only seven teams. But with the Dodgers and Indians moving to Arizona next spring, at least 14 of the 30 major league teams plan to train in Arizona. And the Reds, who train in Florida, are currently exploring a move to Goodyear, Ariz.

Torre said the only disadvantage he foresees this year is that the team's minor leaguers are still training in Florida, so the Dodgers won't have the option of sending players over to minor league camp to get enough at-bats or innings. Therefore, the Dodgers will simulate at least one start, for Chad Billingsley, and might use other simulations as they try to evaluate every player before making roster decisions.

Torre has never managed a team that trained in Arizona, but said the location makes sense for the Dodgers.

"We're going to get a little taste of it this year, which is fine," he said. "The fact that it's closer to the West Coast certainly makes sense for us and for our fans."