Notes: Dodgers promote LaRoche
Anderson placed on disabled list to make room on roster
ATLANTA -- The first-place Dodgers conceded the desperation of their third-base situation Sunday, replacing a guy struggling in the Major Leagues with a guy struggling in the Minor Leagues.
They benched Wilson Betemit and his .140 batting average indefinitely and promoted Andy LaRoche, who was hitting .235 at Triple-A Las Vegas with three homers and 11 RBIs. He hit only .175 with no homers and one RBI in Spring Training, when he missed a chance to make the Opening Day roster.
"We decided to try a different angle," said manager Grady Little, who has been patient with Betemit because he had little choice. "We feel confident about what [LaRoche] is going to do here. We'll give him a good opportunity."
That is Little's way of saying LaRoche will start more than just Sunday's game, in which he played on virtually no sleep after taking a red-eye flight from California on Saturday night.
Little put the best spin possible on LaRoche's poor offensive statistics this year.
"We know what he's capable of doing. He's done it every year in the Minor Leagues," he said. "He's been swinging the bat good, but some bad luck, a little overaggressive at times."
LaRoche admitted he was surprised when told by Las Vegas manager Lorenzo Bundy that he was being promoted.
"He called me to his room, and I thought I was in trouble, but I didn't think I'd done anything wrong," said LaRoche. "He said I was going to The Show and I said, 'Zo, don't mess with me. Are you serious?' Then it was like, whoa, and I soaked it in."
LaRoche made his first rookie mistake before even arriving at the ballpark, having listened to second-year veteran Russell Martin's advice to leave his equipment bag with the hotel bellman. The bag joined suitcases heading to the airport, while LaRoche had to scramble around the clubhouse borrowing bats, gloves and clothing from his new teammates.
"The blind leading the blind," said Juan Pierre.
Roster gymnastics: To make room for LaRoche, the Dodgers placed Marlon Anderson on the disabled list with a well-timed sore elbow, which was operated on last October and flared up during Spring Training. Little said Anderson was sent back to Los Angeles for an MRI.
Anderson -- the primary left-handed pinch-hitter who took over left field for the slumping Andre Ethier last year and slugged seven homers in the stretch run -- was not available to reporters. He was told of the move Saturday night. Anderson was 4-for-22 this year, all the hits coming as a pinch-hitter.
"It's bothered him on and off and the last few days more on than off," said Little. "We'll make sure there's nothing seriously wrong and get him back to being sound. He was always available, but not feeling 100 percent."
Clearly, however, Anderson's injury was a convenient one. Had the emphasis been on replacing Anderson, the club could have promoted left-handed hitter Larry Bigbie and his .371 batting average instead of LaRoche. Bigbie has a June 1 escape in his agreement, and he's likely to exercise it.
Betemit is out of options, and management is convinced he would have been claimed by another team if the Dodgers had attempted to outright him to the Minor Leagues. So, the switch-hitter will instead become the only left-handed bat off the bench, a role he seemed comfortable with when he slugged a pinch-homer off Atlanta's Tim Hudson on Saturday night.
"What am I going to do?" said Betemit, who congratulated LaRoche when he arrived in the clubhouse.
Little said Betemit will take ground balls at other infield positions.
"He's still a big part of our club," Little said. "He showed last night what he can do coming off the bench. We'll use him in matchup situations. Maybe we'll have him hit against closers [instead of Olmedo Saenz]. It will be a pure matchup deal."
One tick shy: Reliever Jonathan Broxton said a return to his native Georgia contributed to his eye-popping fastballs Saturday night, when he was repeatedly clocked at 99 mph.
"It's hard to get that one more mile per hour," joked Broxton. "I was trying. In a real close game, the adrenaline kicks in. Last night, the ball was really coming out of my hand good. Coming back to Georgia, with my family and friends here, I just felt really good. You even have to calm yourself down so you don't try to throw harder."
Broxton said he was clocked at 100 mph two years ago at Double-A Jacksonville.
Martin sits: Little started Mike Lieberthal to catch former Philadelphia batterymate Randy Wolf on Sunday, saying he didn't want Martin to catch a day game after a night game, although he wouldn't yet commit to giving Martin this Thursday's day game in Florida off after Wednesday's night game.
Coming up: Brad Penny (3-0, 1.64 ERA) opens a four-game series at 4:05 p.m. PT on Monday against his former team, the Florida Marlins, and Ricky Nolasco (1-0, 5.68).
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.