Blake bangs two hits in LA debut
Trade sends DeWitt to Triple-A, LaRoche to reserve role
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers have been attempting to win with a mix of veterans and youth, with an eye toward what looks to be a promising future.By trading for third baseman Casey Blake and making him an everyday starter at the hot corner, the Dodgers have postponed the development of their young third basemen at the Major League level in favor of an established veteran. Rookie Blake DeWitt, the Dodgers' everyday third baseman for much of the season, was sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas in a corresponding move. Andy LaRoche will be shifted into a reserve role. "If you don't produce, we've got a great player coming, it's tough to stay around," DeWitt said. It did not take long for Blake to produce for the Dodgers, as he went 2-for-3 with a double and a run while hitting sixth in his Los Angeles debut, Saturday's 6-0 win over the Nationals. Blake did not make much of an impression in a first-inning strikeout during an at-bat in which he felt anxious, but he laced a double to left in his second at-bat when Odalis Perez threw him a high cutter, after which he was able to relax. "It's always nice when you put on a new uniform, especially the first time you've left your original ballclub he's been with all these years, and then to come somewhere else and break in like he did, especially in a winning effort, I think is really important," said manager Joe Torre. Added Blake, "It was big for me to get that first hit out of the way." Those are the kinds of performances the Dodgers are expecting out of Blake, who has averaged 21 home runs and 72 RBIs the past five seasons. He hit a team-high .289 with 11 homers and a team-high 58 RBIs in 94 games for the Indians this year, including a .398 average with runners in scoring position. "If you follow my career I'm kind of a blue-collar guy who goes about his business," Blake said. "I'm not going to hit 40 home runs, drive in 100 runs. I'd like to think I'm a consistent performer. You know what you're going to get each and every night, and hopefully I'll help the team along the way." Blake has been streaky this season, hitting .234 with four homers and 26 RBIs in April and May and .352 with seven homers and 29 RBIs since. "I've had a pretty good approach for a couple months now," Blake said. "It's a huge part of this game is being consistent, finding a consistent approach that works for you and having confidence." The third baseman had nothing but good things to say about Cleveland and even kept the door open for a possible return being he's a free agent after the season, although he also said he would be open to staying in Los Angeles. For the time being, with the Indians having dropped out of playoff contention and the Dodgers one game behind the D-backs in the National League West entering Saturday, he's happy to head west. "You couldn't ask for a better situation," Blake said. "It's kind of tough because partially I'm not mentally attached to this team yet. They're a good bunch of guys, great players, great team, and they should win this division." As for DeWitt, he will become a Minor League player like he was supposed to be at the start of the season before injuries forced his promotion. DeWitt's season resembles Blake's in reverse, as he hit .322 with five homers and 18 RBI in 26 May games to earn National League Rookie of the Month honors only to slump to a .200 batting average with six RBIs since. DeWitt has played good defense, going 36 games without an error, but he went 16 games without an extra-base hit before doubling on Wednesday. "I wasn't aggressive as I thought I should be," DeWitt said. "I was getting kind of defensive after watching some of my at-bats. Really I let too many good pitches go by."
DeWitt said he will work at some positions besides third at the Minors, most likely second base, which is a position he could play in the future when Jeff Kent retires or down the stretch on days Kent needs off.Meanwhile, LaRoche stayed with the Dodgers but will become a permanent backup at third. He said he would also be comfortable spelling Kent at second once in a while as well. When LaRoche, who has been subject to a number of trade rumors in recent weeks, heard the Dodgers had acquired Blake, his first thought was that he would be headed for Cleveland. Instead Los Angeles dealt Triple-A pitcher Jon Meloan and Single A catcher Carlos Santana, leaving LaRoche satisfied to become a bench player rather than an ex-Dodger. "Hey, he's going to help me get a ring, and that's what it's all about," LaRoche said of the trade. "I accept my role, I'm a young guy right now. If my role is to come off the bench, come in and pinch-hit or do whatever then that's a role that I have to accept. I can't complain. I'm here. I'm still living my dream."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.