5/29/2014 2:07 A.M. ET
Determination pays off as Romak gets 'the call'
By Scott Miller / Special to MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- When the telephone rang at 9:16 a.m. PT in his Sacramento hotel on Wednesday morning, Jamie Romak thought manager Damon Berryhill was messing with him.
You might think it was somebody playing a cruel joke, too, if you bounced around the Minors for 12 years and then, wholly unexpectedly, your Triple-A manager woke you from a stone-cold slumber to tell you to get to the Major Leagues as quickly as you could.
"I didn't know what to say," Romak said Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. "Nothing came out."
Romak, 28, was hitting .303 with six doubles, a triple and 18 RBIs in May games for Triple-A Albuquerque. And better yet, he was leading the Pacific Coast League this month with 10 home runs.
"Jamie's been swinging the bat well," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He gives us a lot of versatility. He's comfortable playing first base, and he's played a lot of third base this year. And he's comfortable playing both corners in the outfield.
"He's been doing well. It's a reward for a guy who's been playing well."
Romak took the roster spot vacated when outfielder Carl Crawford was placed on the disabled list with a left ankle sprain.
Unable to immediately reach his wife, Romak phoned his mother to give her the good news before departing Sacramento for Los Angeles.
"She started crying," said Romak, who hit .272 with 13 homers and 30 RBIs overall in 48 games with the Isotopes this season.
A native of London, Ontario, Romak was Atlanta's fourth-round pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. The Dodgers signed him as a free agent in November after he moved from the Braves to the Pirates, Royals and Cardinals' organizations.
As the years rolled by, he never reached the point where he was ready to quit in frustration.
"I love to play baseball," Romak said. "That's what it came down to. I've always believed I could get here.
"So much is timing and opportunity, and it's out of your control."
Romak said he trusted his abilities throughout, and then he said something that is a pretty good lesson in any walk of life.
"I didn't put much emphasis on where I wasn't," Romak said. "I worried about where I was."
He admitted to having doubts at times along the way, but never let them get the best of him.
"There were times I was playing well at Triple-A and they opted for other players," he said. "But you've got to keep your nose to the grindstone."
Through 1,069 Minor League games -- the total in his rear-view mirror when he stepped onto the Dodger Stadium field to take batting practice with the sun shining and the skies bright blue Wednesday afternoon -- he never took his nose off of that grindstone.
Now, most of his family is scrambling to fly into Los Angeles in time for Thursday's series opener with the Pirates. He expects his wife, mother, brother, sister and in-laws all to be in the crowd on Thursday.
And he does not expect another surprise 9:16 a.m. wakeup call.
"I'm usually a guy who likes to sleep until 10," Romak said. "But I was OK with it."
Romak pinch-hit with two outs in the seventh inning on Wednesday and hit a sharp groundout to second base.
Kemp makes first start in left field since 2006
LOS ANGELES -- The waiting is over for Matt Kemp. After five games on the bench, his transition (for now) to left field was set to begin here Wednesday night with Carl Crawford on the disabled list with a sprained ankle.
The position swap, after Kemp misplayed a couple of balls in center field last week and manager Don Mattingly observed that he didn't seem to have the same "burst" in the field he had prior to ankle surgery, is no small thing. The last time Kemp, a Gold Glover in center field in 2009 and '11, played left field was on June 21, 2006.
"Easy process," Mattingly said. "It was a matter of him getting comfortable and ready to go."
Crawford's injury seemed to speed that process along, but Mattingly said he checked with coach Davey Lopes earlier Wednesday to get his opinion as to whether Kemp was ready to give it a whirl. Lopes has been working with Kemp early each day, hitting him fly balls.
"Weird," Kemp said of seeing his name in the lineup in left field. "Different.
"It is what it is."
Kemp said the biggest adjustment will be to "angles and slices and all that."
Mattingly said, generally, line drives into left-center slice toward a left fielder, and liners down the line generally pull away from the left fielder, toward the line and foul territory.
"I think I'm a pretty good athlete," Kemp said. "So I think I'll be OK."
Dodgers ponder next move for Arruebarrena
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers rhapsodize -- rightfully so -- about the defensive skill of shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena. But with Hanley Ramirez back from a couple of days away from the lineup with a sore calf, Arruebarrena is back on the bench and the Dodgers are in "see how it goes" mode.
"The one thing we like with Erisbel here is I have a true backup shortstop," manager Don Mattingly said. "I haven't had that."
Ramirez needs periodic days off as the Dodgers try to keep him healthy, and on those days Justin Turner has played shortstop -- or Chone Figgins (once). And as Mattingly said, that's not putting them in the best position.
But the flip side, of course, is that Arruebarrena cannot sit for too long at a time because the Dodgers do not want to slow his development.
"I don't want to knock Hanley, but the kid is special at shortstop," Mattingly said. "I don't think anybody would deny that."
Mattingly compares him to Atlanta's rangy, whiz kid Andrelton Simmons, as far as today's shortstops.
"He's a big kid, and the stuff we've seen him do in his work," Mattingly said. "Some of the things we've seen him do are fun to watch."
• The Dodgers will display Josh Beckett's game-worn uniform from Sunday's no-hitter at various places around Dodger Stadium during home games in the coming weeks. The exhibit started Wednesday night during the series finale against Cincinnati in the left-field pavilion area. The life-size "locker" display features Beckett's game-worn cap, jersey, pants, spikes and a game-used baseball from Sunday's no-hitter at Philadelphia.
• Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully was back at work Wednesday after sitting out Monday's and Tuesday's games with a chest cold.
Scott Miller is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.