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DeWitt’s debut is a smash

Times Staff Writer

The kid started the spring in minor league camp, and his reward for being promoted was a jersey without his name across the back. He wore a helmet with two earflaps for nearly two weeks because of an equipment shortage.

But on Monday, 22-year-old Blake DeWitt was the Dodgers’ opening-day third baseman.

With his parents and younger sister visiting from Missouri and in the stands at Dodger Stadium, DeWitt started a double play on the first ball hit to him to end a first-and-third threat by the San Francisco Giants in the second inning.

In the bottom half of the inning, DeWitt singled to left for the first hit of his big league career and scored his first run on a hit by Rafael Furcal.

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“Walking up to that plate, I heard my named called and I told myself, ‘Be patient, be calm, breathe,’ ” DeWitt said. “You can get caught not breathing and start shaking a bit.”

Said catcher Russell Martin: “He didn’t waste much time.”

DeWitt finished the day one for two with a pair of walks.

“I hadn’t even thought about the first hit,” DeWitt said. “But looking back at it now, it’s good to get it out of the way.”

DeWitt, who previously had never played a regular-season game above double A, had his bags packed Sunday and was bracing himself for a minor league assignment.

But the Dodgers were unable to acquire a third baseman to replace the injured Nomar Garciaparra, Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu, and he was told to come back to the ballpark Monday ready to play in case they couldn’t add a reinforcement.

They couldn’t.

So the Dodgers, who began the day with 24 active players, made room for him and infielder Angel Chavez by moving Abreu to the disabled list. Right-hander Eric Hull, who was sent down to triple-A Las Vegas last week, was designated for assignment to carve out the space for DeWitt and Chavez on the 40-man roster. Management has temporarily slowed its search for a new third baseman.

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The last-minute roster moves resulted in last-minute work for clubhouse manager Mitch Poole, who was sewing the jerseys of four players who changed numbers: DeWitt (No. 33 from No. 62), Chavez (No. 30 from No. 80), Mark Sweeney (No. 22 from No. 47) and Ramon Troncoso (No. 38 from No. 72).

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The surprise inclusion of Chavez on the opening-day roster came at the right time for the Panamanian utility infielder, who will back up DeWitt at third. His wife is due to give birth to their second child, a boy, in a week and a half.

Chavez, who spent six of his eight professional seasons in the Giants’ system, said he thought he had a chance to make the club because he could play four infield positions. He said he benefited from working on his fielding with Furcal and Andruw Jones.

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Right-hander Rudy Seanez, who was released by the Dodgers last week, has signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, according to a baseball source. Seanez will be activated prior to the Phillies’ home game Wednesday against the Washington Nationals. . . . Abreu’s move to the disabled list is retroactive to March 26. Garciaparra’s, LaRoche’s and Jason Schmidt’s stints on the DL are retroactive to March 20. . . . The payroll for the Dodgers’ 25-man roster is $94.1 million, and the four players on the disabled list are due to make $21.3 million this year. . . . The exhibition game at the Coliseum on Saturday night raised more than $2 million for the Dodgers’ cancer-fighting charity, ThinkCure. The crowd of 115,300 was certified by Guinness World Records as the largest ever for a baseball game.

Times staff writer Kevin Baxter contributed to this report.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com


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