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04/01/10 9:06 PM ET

Haeger locks up Dodgers' fifth spot

Strong spring earns knuckleballer chance in rotation

LOS ANGELES -- Right-handed knuckleballer Charlie Haeger was informed by Dodgers manager Joe Torre that he'd be the club's fifth starter to begin the season.

Haeger received the good news before his start against the Indians at Dodger Stadium on Thursday and expressed excitement before the game.

"I feel like a little kid," Haeger said. "I just feel happy. It's like a dream come true. I've been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time and it's finally here."

Haeger beat out right-handers Ramon Ortiz and Russ Ortiz for the final spot in the rotation after posting a 2.38 ERA in five Spring Training appearances.

"We'll give him a shot at it," Torre said. "You have to pick somebody and of the pitchers we still have in camp, the Ortizes, I'm comfortable that if need be they can work out of the bullpen."

Haeger is expected to make his first start during the Dodgers' three-game series in Florida next weekend with the start coming on Friday or Saturday. Torre said Haeger could even see some time in the bullpen during the week before his start because of the flexibility he brings as a knuckleballer.

The 26-year-old will be making his 26th appearance in the Majors as he carries a career 5.26 ERA over 53 innings with the White Sox, Padres and Dodgers.

But he has a career 3.79 ERA in Triple-A and posted a 3.32 ERA in 19 innings with the Dodgers last season, impressing Torre.

"Joe expressed that he liked the way that I threw and the composure on the mound and that was enough for him," Haeger said. "Obviously, coming from a guy like Joe, as highly regarded as he is in baseball, it gave me motivation to work hard in the offseason."

Haeger credited former knuckleballer Charlie Hough for helping him work on his knuckleball this spring and now he's ready to bring it into the regular season as the Dodgers' fifth starter.

"I think I threw the ball well in Spring Training and I feel good about that," Haeger said. "It makes me feel good heading into the regular season, and physically I feel ready. The next step is to have a good season and try to bring a World Series here."

No joke: LA goes with DeWitt at second

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre and general manager Ned Colletti called Blake DeWitt into Torre's office at Dodger Stadium on Thursday for some familiar bad news.

They'd be sending the second baseman down to Triple-A Albuquerque to get more at-bats with veterans Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll handling second-base duties for the Dodgers.

But before it could fully sink in for DeWitt, Colletti asked him what day of the year it was, and DeWitt didn't even know. Once he heard it was all an elaborate April Fool's joke, however, the relief was overwhelming for DeWitt.

"I was pretty excited because I went from a real low to a real high," a grinning DeWitt said. "They played it off real good. I was not expecting it at all. Once they told me I couldn't even hardly laugh."

Torre, though, couldn't help but laugh when recounting the episode but also noted that DeWitt was certainly happy about his chance to be the club's regular second baseman this season.

"It was more emotion than I've seen from him in a while," Torre said. "There was more relief and joy."

It's a welcome change for DeWitt, who began as the club's Opening Day third baseman in 2008 because of injuries to Dodgers regulars before spending time at Triple-A most of last year with Casey Blake entrenched at third and Orlando Hudson at second.

But now is the time for DeWitt to establish himself as a regular at second base, and he's excited for the opportunity.

"It's good," DeWitt said. "I worked hard this offseason. I knew what I needed to improve in and I still know what I need to improve on. But I feel good where I'm at and I feel I can contribute to this team."

Torre noted one of the reasons the decision was made was because Belliard and Carroll have experience as backup infielders and the 24-year-old DeWitt needs constant playing time to further his development.

"This is based on the fact that if there's a regular player out there it's Blake DeWitt," Torre said. "Dewitt is a young guy who needs to play every day. Jamey Carroll and Belliard are two guys that can play against left-handers, so we have flexibility in that regard."

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