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DeWitt may be the starter at third

Times Staff Writer

Blake DeWitt has never played above double A and doesn’t even have a mug shot in the Dodgers’ media guide, but the odds of him being the club’s starting third baseman on opening day increased significantly Thursday when Manager Joe Torre said that Tony Abreu would start the season on the disabled list.

Torre said Abreu would miss two or three weeks because of a strained right groin, adding to the list of ailing third basemen that already includes Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche.

When Torre was asked if the 22-year old DeWitt was the favorite to start on opening day, he replied, “People keep falling down besides him.”

Abreu said he was hurt in his final at-bat in the Dodgers’ final Cactus League game Tuesday, the twisting of his hips on his swing resulting in the injury. Abreu underwent an MRI exam Wednesday, which revealed the strain.

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“I feel bad,” Abreu said. “This was an opportunity for me. I would’ve liked to have started the season playing.”

Questions about Abreu’s toughness resurfaced within the Dodgers’ organization in the wake of his groin problem, which he first reported early in camp. The same doubts were expressed last season when Abreu complained of abdominal problems upon being sent down to triple-A Las Vegas in July. The Dodgers didn’t put Abreu on the major league disabled list, which led to the players’ union filing a grievance on his behalf.

Abreu had surgery in the winter. His latest ailment is said to be unrelated to the procedure.

“What doubts can they have?” Abreu said. “I’m doing what the doctor told me. I had an MRI.”

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Part of the organization’s frustration with Abreu is that he has often been slow in telling coaches and trainers about his injuries. Torre admitted that he and others have had trouble communicating with the 23-year-old, who is from the Dominican Republic and doesn’t speak English. Torre has taken a Spanish-speaking player or coach with him when talking to Abreu.

The loss of Abreu could be costly. LaRoche will be out until at least May to recover from surgery on his right thumb, and Garciaparra probably will start the season on the disabled list with him and Abreu because of a microfracture in his wrist. General Manager Ned Colletti maintained that he would continue to look within the organization for a replacement, saying he preferred that to overpaying for what probably will be a short-term solution.

Garciaparra said he was hoping to be ready for opening day, but still had sharp pains in his right hand and admitted to being unsure when he would be able to start swinging a bat. He took ground balls in Anaheim without the sleeve that he previously had on his right forearm to control the swelling.

LaRoche said that the three pins that were inserted into his thumb during his surgery would be removed Tuesday and that he would undergo an X-ray that would determine the next stage of recovery.

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A meeting between the coaching staff and management about the roster led to only two transactions: the optioning of right-hander Yhency Brazoban to double-A Jacksonville and the release of left-hander Mike Myers.

The club wants Brazoban, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, to rebuild his arm strength. He gave up seven runs (six earned) in 3 2/3 innings over six appearances.

Torre said that the need to carry extra infielders could force him to carry 11 pitchers instead of 12, making a situational pitcher like Myers a luxury the team couldn’t afford.

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An MRI exam on Jeff Kent’s strained right hamstring didn’t reveal any further damage. Kent, whose status for the start of the season is up in the air, ran again Thursday and Torre said he could play over the next few days. Torre said he felt comfortable playing Chin-lung Hu at second base if Kent isn’t ready for opening day.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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Dodgers vs. Boston

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