06/10/08 10:50 PM ET
LaRoche's spot uncertain on eve of start
Sold on his bat, club now weighing infield options for youngster
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Naturally, when LaRoche stepped onto the field for batting practice, the first thing coaches wanted was for LaRoche to take ground balls at first base. He had to borrow a mitt to comply.
"Now that he's here, we have to find a place for him to play to get enough at-bats so he can help us off the bench," said manager Joe Torre, alluding to the fact that LaRoche has become a utilityman in the wake of his torn thumb ligament in Spring Training that opened the door for rookie Blake DeWitt to take the starting third-base job.
Torre said that with the Padres starting former Dodgers left-hander Randy Wolf on Wednesday, LaRoche would start the game, but was uncertain whether it would be at third base in place of DeWitt, or first base in place of James Loney.
Torre was asked if there were plans to platoon DeWitt and LaRoche at third base.
"Not necessarily," he said, aware that DeWitt is batting .348 against left-handed pitching. "Maybe against certain left-handers, he'd start at third base, or against certain left-handers, at first base [Loney is hitting .254 against lefties]. Both DeWitt and Loney have had enough success against left-handers that it's tough to say they shouldn't play against left-handers."
Torre said he wasn't planning on starting LaRoche at second base, even though Jeff Kent is not expected to start Thursday's day game, but was comfortable enough with reports of LaRoche's play at second to use him at the position in a double-switch.
Torre said the switch of Chin-lung Hu (who was optioned to Triple-A) for LaRoche became imperative late in Sunday's game, which the Dodgers lost, 3-1. Had the Dodgers mounted a ninth-inning rally against closer Kerry Wood, the only position players remaining would have been Hu (batting .159), Luis Maza (.233) and back-up catcher Danny Ardoin.
"When you look at the situation pinch-hitting the other day, we didn't have many bullets left," he said.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.