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Garciaparra looks doubtful

Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- Nomar Garciaparra is doubtful for opening day with a broken bone in his right hand, Manager Joe Torre said Thursday, leaving the Dodgers searching for a starting third baseman.

“I don’t anticipate him being ready,” Torre said. “I think we have to wait probably until the beginning of next week to figure out how long we’re going to be without Nomar.”

Garciaparra hasn’t played since taking a pitch off his wrist March 7, the same day backup third baseman Andy LaRoche tore a ligament in his right thumb. LaRoche isn’t expected back for at least six weeks.

Among the options in the interim, Torre said, are Tony Abreu, 23, who played some third base for the Dodgers last summer; rookie shortstop Chin-lung Hu; veteran utility player Ramon Martinez; and 22-year-old Blake DeWitt, who was promoted from minor league camp two days after Garciaparra was injured and has played well in his absence.

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In the Dodgers’ 8-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, DeWitt played the first five innings at third base, striking out and walking in two plate appearances before being replaced by Abreu. Hu started at second base and had a two-run triple. He’s expected to play at third today.

General Manager Ned Colletti has had discussions with other teams about available infielders but said he would prefer to explore the options on his own roster before turning to the trade market.

“There may be something from the outside,” he said. “Right now no one’s piqued our interest.”

Garciaparra’s injury was originally diagnosed as a bruise, but an MRI exam Wednesday found a microfracture. He said he won’t swing a bat for at least a week, leaving him five days -- at most -- to get ready for the March 31 opener, making it likely he’ll start the season on the disabled list.

“I’m not even looking that far ahead. I know it’s a big cliche, but I am looking at it one day at a time to see how it feels every day,” he said. “I have no control over the healing process. The body will do that.”

Penny to start opener

Brad Penny, pitching in the ballpark where he made his professional debut 13 years ago, gave up an unearned run and three hits in five innings to help the Dodgers open the Arizona portion of their spring training schedule by beating the White Sox.

And afterward Torre named him the opening-day starter.

“It’s an honor,” said Penny, who has never made an opening-day start. “I’m excited to get it started on the right foot.”

Rafael Furcal led the offense with four hits, including his third home run of the spring, and Matt Kemp added a three-run homer.

Open spot

If Garciaparra goes on the DL, that could open a roster spot for versatile Delwyn Young. He has struggled this spring but is out of options, meaning the team would have to make him available to the 29 other clubs on waivers before he could be outrighted to the minors.

Young, who has played second and the outfield this spring, leads the team with three errors and is hitting .156 with nearly twice as many strikeouts (13) as hits (seven).

Outfield jam

Torre hasn’t settled on an opening-day outfield yet with Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Juan Pierre still competing for the two spots flanking center fielder Andruw Jones.

Going into the spring it looked as if Pierre’s speed and experience would give him an edge. But he’s hitting only .200 and has an on-base percentage of .279 while Ethier, who got a rare start against a left-hander Thursday and had two hits, is batting .352 and leads the team in home runs with five. Kemp is hitting .304 and leads the team in RBIs with 15.

“That’s going to be my toughest stuff I have to deal with, the outfield,” said Torre, who said he spoke to all four players early Thursday, then called Pierre into his office for a short postgame chat. “You have two guys that are experienced and talented. And you have the two kids that are inexperienced and talented. Whatever way you go there’s going to be a starting outfielder that’s not going to be playing.”

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com


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