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02/28/09 7:56 PM EST
Dodgers try out DeWitt at shortstop
Torre experimenting with various options for versatile infielder
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
TUCSON, Ariz. -- In the first inning of his first game playing shortstop since he was a high school player, Blake DeWitt fielded a grounder up the middle and made a low throw that was scooped out of the dirt by Dodgers first baseman Valentino Pascucci. It was the only ball hit to him during a 13-5 victory over the Rockies at Hi Corbett Field.
And so for DeWitt, another trial by error began."That happens a lot," DeWitt said about the leadoff grounder hit by Rockies second baseman Eric Young Jr. "You get in there, testing out a new position and you know it's going to come sooner or later. You've got to be ready. It felt pretty good out there." With Tony Abreu nursing a sore groin and Dodgers manager Joe Torre trying to spot starter Rafael Furcal early rest, the Dodgers have turned to DeWitt to again cover another infield position. Last year as a rookie, DeWitt opened at third base. The Dodgers later traded for Casey Blake to fill that position, and when Jeff Kent went down with a knee injury, DeWitt started at second base all the way from the stretch run through the postseason. For this season, the Dodgers re-signed Blake as a free agent, just added free agent Orlando Hudson to play second and have Mark Loretta as an all-purpose infield backup. Thus, third-base coach Larry Bowa has been working DeWitt out at shortstop during practice, hitting him endless ground balls. Three games into the Cactus League season, Bowa told Torre that DeWitt was ready to give it a try. "We've been working with him," Torre said. "He's a valuable player. Let's see if he gives us other options. We've got to find out how many places we can use him. I just rely on Larry Bowa to tell me when to throw him out there. I asked him the other day and he said, 'No, not yet.' Then we talked yesterday and he said he was ready. The kid has no problem working, that's for sure." The timing couldn't have been more perfect. Abreu injured his groin during Friday's loss to the Mariners in Peoria, Ariz., and is being watched closely. X-rays were negative, Torre said, but Abreu will undergo an MRI on Monday, a scheduled off day in the Cactus League schedule. The Dodgers have an early game slated against the Brewers on the main back field at the Camelback Ranch complex. Abreu missed the entire 2008 season because groin and abdomen complications led to hip surgery, so there's some concern that the latest injury may be related. "The MRI probably will give us more information," Torre said. "It's in the same place it was last year. Hopefully it's related to remnants of that rather than something new, but we won't know until Monday night or Tuesday." Meanwhile, DeWitt played five innings in the field in his inaugural outing at short. At the plate he was 0-for-4 with an RBI. Last season, he batted .264 with nine homers and 52 RBIs in 117 games. In eight postseason games he batted .167 (4-for-24) with no homers and six RBIs. Still, Torre and Bowa like DeWitt's toughness and willingness to adjust. "He can play everywhere," Bowa said. "Rafi isn't going to play every day. We're going to give him some blows. We don't know how long Abreu's out. He's very valuable. We'll just keep working. This kid wants to make the team any way he can, believe me. Some guys would say, 'How many positions do you want me to play? I'm only  years old?' Not him. He's an athlete."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.