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03/09/09 10:30 PM ET

Paul standing out in crowded outfield

Long shot's plus-.400 average not unnoticed at Dodgers camp

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Xavier Paul can count. He can look at a depth chart and see, above his, the names of Dodgers outfielders with either big salaries or big expectations or both.

Manny Ramirez. Andre Ethier. Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre.

But the three hits Paul had in Monday's 13-7 Dodgers win over the Rangers is proof that the 24-year-old is determined to give manager Joe Torre and his staff something to think about before they send him back to Triple-A.

"He's emerged this spring," Torre said on Monday. "He's played a lot more. He just does a lot of different things. He's very aggressive in the outfield and at the plate. I'm very pleased with what I saw. Last year, he caught our attention a little, but we're taking it more seriously. Even if he doesn't leave with us, he'll be on our minds if something crops up, as it does, during the season."

Paul appreciates the playing time, but more than that, he won't worry about.

"You know, if I haven't learned anything else in six years in the Minor Leagues, I've learned not to worry about things I can't control," said Paul, who tripled, doubled, singled and drove in two, raising his average to .406. "As long as I'm on the field, I'll play hard. They'll make their decisions."

That would be management, and one of the decisions management made last year was not to give Paul a September callup, even though he went on a second-half tear at Las Vegas that pulled his average up to a career-high .316. Then, he continued his improvement while playing in the Mexican Winter League.

"It was their decision. It's their team and it's all opinion," Paul said. "It was disappointing. At the end of the day, with the outfield situation, they called up [Jason] Repko. I talked to a couple people about it, and they gave me two reasons -- I needed to become a better baserunner and a more polished defensive player."

In other words, he had to become more like Repko. Paul doesn't have Repko's basestealing speed. He has a rifle for a throwing arm and has been primarily a right fielder, although he played center last year. If the Dodgers somehow were able to deal Pierre, his replacement as fourth outfielder would need to have center-field ability.

One thing Paul can't complain about this spring is game opportunities. With Ramirez not debuting until Thursday, Paul has played in all 12 exhibition games. He played the entire game on Monday, batting leadoff and getting five more at-bats for a team-high 32. He also leads the club in hits, total bases and RBIs. He had 19 spring at-bats last year.

"Right now, with the outfielders we have, maybe I'm fighting for a fourth-outfield spot or fifth, that's how deep we are," he said. "I know I'm ready for the next level, no doubt in my mind. That's the mind-set I brought into Spring Training after Triple-A and winter ball. I've matured as a player and as a person. I handle situations better."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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