Veterans, young Kemp sit in finale
Dodgers rest ailing Kent, Garciaparra against Braves
ATLANTA -- Sunday saw more lineup roulette for the Dodgers, as manager Joe Torre sat veterans Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra and young outfielder Matt Kemp.
Torre said he wanted to rest Kent, whose right hamstring that was strained during Spring Training was "fatigued," but "not injured."
Garciaparra's situation is more complicated. He is 1-for-10 in three games since returning from a broken right hand, and Torre acknowledged he's trying to give Garciaparra enough playing time to regain game fitness and show whether he should be the everyday third baseman, while not burdening an already struggling offense.
"I don't think he's where he needs to be yet," said Torre. "That doesn't mean he can't come up with a big hit. He still has the ability to do some things. We still have a little time to evaluate. We'll play it out the best we can and give him every opportunity. That's my job, as a manager, to figure out a formula. We can move him around and get him at-bats and not have him under a great deal of pressure. Right now, we have to get him as many at-bats and see what we have."
Clearly, Torre is not sold on Garciaparra as an everyday third baseman -- offensively and defensively -- but that's not surprising, as Garciaparra has only one-half season at the position, having made his reputation as an All-Star shortstop, then for 1 1/2 seasons as a better-than-average first baseman.
Garciaparra concedes he's not a natural third baseman and, more to the point of his current challenge, has had to make compromises in his swing because of the injury, reminding him of a similar cause-and-effect from a similar hand injury in 2000.
"You can't hit without your hands," Garciaparra said. "You make alterations in the swing to adjust, but just a centimeter change can change everything. It took me more than a year to get it back that time."
Rookies Chin-lung Hu and Blake DeWitt started at second and third, respectively, while veteran Juan Pierre took over for Kemp in the outfield. Torre said he started Pierre over Kemp because Atlanta starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens was more effective against right-handed hitters last year, although righties this year are hitting .295 against him.
The juggling allowed Torre to elevate improving Andruw Jones from seventh in the lineup to fourth in lieu of Kent. Torre said Jones will usually bat fifth (or sixth to break up left-handed hitters James Loney and Andre Ethier). Russell Martin returned behind the plate after getting the first six innings off on Saturday.
Torre hasn't used the same batting order twice this year, but said the Yankees didn't always have a set lineup, either.
"I did a lot of changes," he said. "Maybe that's why I'm not there anymore. Maybe I messed it up."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.