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BASEBALL DODGER NOTES : Lasorda Says Javier Will Be Tested at Third

TIMES STAFF WRITER

He wasn’t at the Dodgers’ first official winter workout Monday, which was a good thing, because the herds of cameramen pursuing Darryl Strawberry and Orel Hershiser would probably have trampled him.

But Stan Javier might be under the same spotlight this season. Manager Tom Lasorda said Monday that the reserve outfielder could become the Dodgers’ third baseman.

“We’re going to work him out at third base this spring and see what happens,” Lasorda said after the workout, which had just about everything but a major league third baseman.

Jeff Hamilton is rehabilitating his injured shoulder in Michigan, and has not thrown a ball since last fall. Lenny Harris and Mike Sharperson, last year’s third-base platoon, may be needed at second base, where the Dodgers were unhappy with Juan Samuel.

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“So why not Javier?” said Lasorda, who discussed his plans with Javier during a recent visit to his home in the Dominican Republic. “He’s a hell of a player. He learns well. He wants to play.”

And the Dodgers are pining to put Javier’s bat in the No. 2 spot in the order. He hit .304 in 276 at-bats last season with six sacrifice bunts, ranking second on the team. He also grounded into only six double plays.

“That’s our biggest attraction to him,” said one Dodger instructor. “We need a No. 2 hitter, he would be perfect for that role--now we have to figure out a place to play him.”

As far as Javier is concerned, third base is better than nowhere. He said he figured his career was headed in that direction earlier this winter when the Dodgers acquired outfielders Strawberry and Brett Butler.

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“I still feel very upset,” Javier said Monday from the Dominican Republic. “Tommy and I talked it out, and I understand what they were doing when they got those other guys, but I am still upset.

“I even asked Tommy to talk to them about a possible trade, but right now it is just talk. There are a lot of things to look at before that. Who knows? Third base would be fine. I don’t have anything to lose.”

Javier, 27, has not played third base since becoming a professional in 1981. But he has played a few games at second, and even made several major league appearances at first base for Oakland.

“And earlier this winter, I started taking ground balls at third base,” Javier said. “I figured I wanted to be ready for anything.

“Third base is different, but I consider myself a good athlete. I don’t see why I couldn’t make the switch.”

Bill Russell, one of the Dodger coaches who will work with Javier, warned that the switch will be difficult. But he said that Javier, who made several spectacular plays in center field last season without committing an error, has the proper foundation.

“Obviously, it will be tough for him, but he has the quickness and the good hands,” Russell said. “We’ve seen him in the infield before when he took ground balls at first base. We know he can play the infield. It’s a matter of making certain adjustments. I guess only time will tell.”

That Javier’s name is even being mentioned at that position reveals the Dodgers’ concern for Hamilton’s soundness. Some club officials were unhappy last year when he refused to undergo recommended surgery after playing in only seven games. Instead, he chose to cure his season-long shoulder pains with rest and rehabilitation.

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Hamilton will fly to Los Angeles for an examination and workouts later this month.

“Our reports are that the shoulder does not hurt anymore, and we think Jeff is on a good schedule,” said Fred Claire, Dodger vice president. “After all, he has to know how important this season is to him. And he should know that he has competition.”

For the first time Monday, Claire acknowledged that he is planning on an opening-day rotation without Orel Hershiser.

“I am not counting on him for opening day, no,” Claire said. “At this point, we are taking his recovery day by day, and that will dictate his return.”

Sources say that Dodger officials are not counting on Hershiser’s full recovery until June.

As usual Monday, Hershiser promised nothing.

“I can’t predict anything,” said Hershiser, recovering from reconstructive shoulder surgery performed last April. “I’ll just continue my work and see what happens. Everybody is wondering about me. Well, so am I.”

Hershiser, who began throwing off a mound last week, threw 30 pitches Monday at 75-82 m.p.h. His next milestone is facing hitters, which he earlier said he needs to do before leaving for Vero Beach next month if he hopes to be ready for the season.

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Missing from the workout was unsigned Fernando Valenzuela, who will be the Dodgers’ fifth starter if Hershiser is not healed.

Rick Dempsey, who had been considering an offer to work as a Dodger instructor, has accepted an invitation to attend spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers. He should easily make that team as a backup catcher to B.J. Surhoff.

Dempsey, who was not offered a contract by the Dodgers, is wondering why the Dodgers invited Gary Carter to spring training and not him. Carter threw out only 21% of 81 baserunners last season; Dempsey threw out 31% of 48 runners.

“If Mike Scioscia goes down and they lose this year on defense, they are going to be sorry they made that move,” said Dempsey, who hopes to be playing in his 19th major league season.

“Fred Claire did a great job getting all that offense this winter, but defense and pitching are going to win it. It is kind of a slap in the face to see them going after Carter.”

Dodger Notes

Darryl Strawberry looked fit in his first activity in a Dodger uniform. He said he has been working with a personal trainer this winter to stay in shape. . . . One of the featured performers in the Dodgers’ new highlight film is Hubie Brooks, who inspired last year’s team but has since been traded to New York for Bobby Ojeda. . . . Ojeda was amused by the ceremony surrounding the Dodgers’ first workout. “I came here with my sweats, and they tell me I’ve got to put on a uniform,” Ojeda said with a laugh. “I’ve worked out in January before, but never in a real uniform.”


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