Hu has found a mentor in Garciaparra
Young infielder learning from one of his childhood idols
LOS ANGELES -- Rookie Chin-lung Hu made his fifth start of the season Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, written into the No. 8 spot in Joe Torre's batting order. Hu took one of his many infield gloves with him to second base and allowed Jeff Kent to sit on Sunday.
Along with his glove, Hu appears to have taken some of veteran infielder Nomar Garciaparra's wisdom with him.
Hu has his locker next to Garciaparra, a natural fit for a rookie infielder to be paired with a veteran. Hu said that Garciaparra was among his favorite players growing up in Taiwan and he hasn't been afraid to ask Garciaparra questions about the trade. This willingness to learn is one that Garciaparra has noticed and respects, and in return, he has tried to accommodate every question and make Hu better.
"He was one of my favorite players growing up," Hu, 24 said, of Garciaparra, 34. "The Major Leagues are so different from the Minors. Sometimes you try to do too much. I think Nomar has reminded me to enjoy the game and stay ready for anything."
For his part, Garciaparra is frustrated to be on the disabled list [right calf] for the second time this season, but he has retained a willingness to help Hu acclimate himself to the Major Leagues.
Garciaparra said he easily remembers his tepid first days as a rookie and the small details of everyday life in a Major League clubhouse that can easily escape a newcomer. Those adjustments extend to the field. Garciaparra came to the Major Leagues late in the 1996 season and was the American League Rookie of The Year in 1997. He said former Red Sox infielders John Valentin, Tim Naehring, Mo Vaughn and Jeff Frye helped him. Now he recognizes that it's his turn to play the role of the wise veteran.
"He's great because he doesn't walk around like he knows everything," Garciaparra said. "He doesn't assume he knows it all. He takes it all in. We'll sit and talk. He asks questions of a guy who has been there a while and that's what you want to see. He's great. He wants to get better and that's what you like to see."
For the immediate future, Hu likely serves as a versatile infielder. He came up as a shortstop and considers it his natural position, but can spell Kent at second. Manager Joe Torre said before the game Sunday that Hu would most likely be the next option to play third base after fellow rookie Blake DeWitt. For the time being, Hu's versatility is an asset that has helped keep the left side of the Dodger infield flowing. And in his first season, he can mine Garciaparra's mind as much as he likes.
"If I see an individual play, I might say, hey you might want to move there, for this hitter or this count. As you get older, the game changes," Garciaparra said. "It's a different understanding and a different awareness of what is going on. There are things that go on up here that you didn't even know existed in the Minors."
Said Hu: "He's been very beneficial for me to have him next to me."
John Klima is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.