ANAHEIM -- Rookie third baseman Blake DeWitt missed another start Friday night with his stiff lower back and he only needs to look across the Dodgers clubhouse in the direction of Rafael Furcal to see the potentially disabling effects of that injury.
Furcal has responded to a Tuesday cortisone injection and rejoined the club for continued therapy, but still has not resumed any baseball activities and said he probably won't until Sunday or Monday. He is eligible to be activated on Wednesday, which would seem to be overly optimistic.
He suffered the injury May 5 against the Mets. He doesn't recall exactly how, but suspects it was on a spectacular backhand play robbing David Wright of a hit into the hole, throwing across his body from short left field to first base.
He said he was afraid to swing hard as that game went on and it really bothered him running the bases. The next day, he said, it locked up and he needed his wife to help him out of bed. Furcal missed five games before the club put him on the disabled list. Last September, he missed the final 12 games of the season with a similar sacroiliac sprain
With that as a frame of reference, the Dodgers are hopeful DeWitt's back injury is not as serious, but as Furcal demonstrated, nobody can predict. DeWitt's stiffness had been coming on for a week but he couldn't ignore it after feeling a twinge while fielding Jason Kendall's slow roller Wednesday night and throwing across his body to first base.
DeWitt stayed in that game, then missed Thursday's series finale in Milwaukee and was out of the lineup Friday night, replaced at third base by catcher Russell Martin, with Gary Bennett again catching and Luis Maza retaining the shortstop job after filling in nicely on Thursday for fellow rookie fill-in Chin-lung Hu.
"I feel a lot better today, 10 times better than yesterday," said DeWitt, although the night he was injured he said he would play the next day, "no doubt about it."
"I'm 10 times better than yesterday. I don't need an MRI. It's just tightness back there. Right now it feels great. I've never had a back problem. The exercise I did today really loosened it up."
The siege of infielder injuries (Furcal, DeWitt, Nomar Garciaparra, Andy LaRoche, Tony Abreu) provided playing time for Hu, but he's hitting .200 with one extra-base hit in 55 at-bats and the playing time has dried up.
"He isn't comfortable playing right now," said manager Joe Torre, who indicated that when the injured infielders return, management must decide if Hu is needed as a Major League reserve or would be better served playing every day at Triple-A Las Vegas.
That decision likely will depend on how Maza plays shortstop. He's a natural second baseman who also has experience at third base, but he's rarely played shortstop. Without Hu, Maza would be the back-up shortstop.
Another option there would be Garciaparra, but his recovery from a strained calf seems to have stalled and Torre said he will have further medical checks next week. If DeWitt retains the third base job, Garciaparra is versatile enough to be a utilityman capable of playing all four infield positions.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.