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Park had to take a minor detour

Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- Chan Ho Park was in a Dodgers uniform Friday for the first time in six years, the sting of being cut from the opening-day roster no longer a topic worthy of discussion.

Asked what he thought when sent down to triple-A Las Vegas for what turned out to be a three-day minor league assignment, Park replied, “I’m on the team now. That’s more important, right?”

Park, who went into the spring with a minor league deal, said he was “in shock” when he was told Wednesday by Las Vegas Manager Lorenzo Bundy that his contract was being purchased by the big league club. He was scheduled to make his first start for the 51s on Thursday.

Manager Joe Torre said the number of pitchers he used in the season-opening series against the San Francisco Giants, including five in a rain-delayed game Wednesday, wasn’t the only reason he decided to call up Park. The improved health of second baseman Jeff Kent and the surprising play of rookie third baseman Blake DeWitt, he said, made utility infielder Angel Chavez expendable. Chavez was designated for assignment Wednesday.

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Park, 34, who played his first eight professional seasons in the Dodgers’ organization, admitted that he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of going to Las Vegas.

“I had to think, ‘What are my choices?’ ” Park said. “My only choices were to retire or go to Las Vegas. I chose to go to Vegas.”

Torre said that when he sent down Park, he promised him he would be the first pitcher called up when the Dodgers added a 12th pitcher.

“He trusted us, which I’m happy with,” Torre said. Breaking into a grin, Torre continued, “At least now we’ve kept our word. Whatever happens from here on out doesn’t matter. We kept our word.”

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In light of third base coach Larry Bowa’s heated protest of the new rule that limits where he and other base coaches can stand, the coaches’ boxes at Dodger Stadium will be extended from 15 feet to 20, the longest they can be under baseball regulations. Torre said he made the request to the grounds- keeping crew.

“And I was three feet out,” Bowa said of the incident Tuesday night that led to a spat with third base umpire Ed Montague, an ejection and a three-game suspension that ends at the conclusion of today’s game.

The commissioner’s office refused to say whether Bowa had received an additional fine for critical comments he made Wednesday about Bob Watson, baseball’s vice president of on-field operations.

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Nomar Garciaparra, who has a microfracture in his right wrist, hit off a tee on Wednesday and had a soft-toss session scheduled for Friday. Garciaparra hadn’t swung a bat since March 18 and he said that his hand still hurt.

Andy LaRoche traveled with the team to San Diego, in part to remain with the team and in part to be with trainer Stan Conte to rehabilitate his surgically repaired right thumb. Tony Abreu worked out in Vero Beach, where he was sent for extended spring training.

Dodgers management is encouraged enough by the play of DeWitt and the progress of the injured third base threesome that they again rebuffed Philadelphia when they were approached about a trade involving Wes Helms this week, according to baseball sources. The Phillies have also offered Helms, whom they designated for assignment this week, to Florida and Atlanta.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com


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