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12/18/09 6:07 PM EST
DeWitt unfazed by Carroll's signing
Infielder ready to fight for Dodgers' second-base job
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- They did it again to Blake DeWitt this week, threw a veteran obstacle in his path for the second consecutive season when it looked like he had inherited a starting job at second base. Last year, it was Orlando Hudson's February arrival. Jamey Carroll, signed by the Dodgers this week, doesn't have Gold Glove or All Star on his resume as Hudson did. But Carroll's versatility as a Major League utility man, and a $3.85 million investment by management, mean DeWitt hasn't inherited anything. DeWitt gets that, and he isn't complaining. The 24-year-old learned the news of Carroll's signing while in Texas working on his second-base defense with Minor League infield coordinator Matt Martin. DeWitt said he welcomes Carroll. "My approach is not going to change," said DeWitt. "I'm going to work hard, improve as much as possible and get to Spring Training ready to win a job and help this team win. A couple of years ago I might have felt different. But I've learned a lot, I've grown up a lot since 2008. I realize some things you can control and some things you can't. "They throw obstacles in front of everybody in this game. There's always somebody ready to fight for a job. He's a good player and I look forward to playing with him and learning a lot from him. A week ago, I let [the team] know I'd be ready for whatever role I have. Nothing is given to you in this game. You've got to go out and earn it." Something was given to DeWitt two years ago, when Spring Training injuries to Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche left the Dodgers desperate at third base. DeWitt, who started the previous season at Class A, got an emergency promotion from Minor League camp and played so well he was the Opening Day starting third baseman. He hit .303 over the first two months of the season, but .200 after that until he was bumped down to Triple-A when veteran Casey Blake was acquired in late July. DeWitt got another unexpected opportunity when Jeff Kent tore knee cartilage at the end of August. DeWitt shifted to second base and started during the stretch run and through the playoffs. He finished his rookie season hitting .264 with nine homers and 52 RBIs. When Kent retired that winter, DeWitt seemed the heir apparent. But management apparently wasn't sold and Hudson's acquisition last spring left DeWitt the 26th man on a 25-man roster. He was shuttled back and forth between Los Angeles and Triple-A Albuquerque six times, believed to be a club record. "Not the most advantageous situation for him," general manager Ned Colletti conceded last week. "'09 was not fair to him, not with his type of swing. He has to play. We liked him so much as a player and teammate, we experimented at shortstop, just to try to find enough at-bats so he could stay on the team. In his case, it was a deterrent." Colletti said he had confidence in DeWitt, that his 2008 season was no fluke because he performed for an extended time and played well under stretch-run and postseason pressure. But Colletti then brought in a veteran again anyway, not that DeWitt took it as a lack of confidence in him. "Not at all," he said. "And I have even more confidence in my ability to play second base after working this week, not that I didn't before. But I'm getting better." DeWitt said the focus of his workouts was turning a quicker double play from second base. He said he has drills to work on until he reports to the Dodgers' January workouts at Dodger Stadium. In between he will break for a special family Christmas in Missouri, where sister Jenni has recovered from a second and successful surgery last month to address a rapid heartbeat. "She's fine now," said DeWitt, who cut short a stint in the Dominican Winter League to be with his sister. "Everybody is thankful for how she's come out of the surgery. It's going to be a good Christmas."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.