DeWitt refines play at third base

Times Staff Writer

MIAMI -- When Dodgers Manager Joe Torre wrote Blake DeWitt's name in the lineup card on opening day, he did so with one modest expectation: That the 22-year-old rookie third baseman wouldn't hurt the team.

He hasn't.

Before the Dodgers' game in Florida on Wednesday, DeWitt had made only one error in 69 chances, his fielding percentage of .986 the best among third basemen in the majors.

"As opposed to not hurting us, I think he's helped us in a lot of areas," Torre said. "He's been very impressive for me."

Defense is something DeWitt acknowledges he didn't pay serious attention to until last season.

"Not that I didn't work at it," DeWitt said, "but last year I had to take a step back from everything."

Prompting the re-evaluation was a demotion at the beginning of the season. DeWitt, rated the best pure high school hitter by Baseball America in the 2004 draft, started the season at Class-A Inland Empire. He spent the final month of the 2006 season in double A.

"I didn't have my head right," he said. "I wasn't concentrating on what I should've been doing."

DeWitt says he believes that the change in perspective is what allowed him to claw his way back to double A last season and hold his own in the majors this season. His attitude was something third base coach Larry Bowa noticed almost immediately.

Bowa said that when DeWitt was called up from minor league camp into big league camp this spring, he saw that DeWitt had trouble with balls to his right.

Bowa began working with DeWitt on a daily basis to remedy the shortcoming. Among the drills was a quick-hands exercise in which Bowa tossed DeWitt balls from only a couple of feet away.

"That specific drill has helped me out a ton," said DeWitt, adding that he sees hops better and is using his hands more.

They continued doing the drill when the season started.

What impressed Bowa most was that on a day when he was busy pitching batting practice and hitting grounders to other infielders, DeWitt asked whether they could perform their daily routine.

"This kid," Bowa said, "he works."


Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully hinted Tuesday night that he might retire when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Scully, 80, received a lifetime achievement award in sports broadcasting from WFUV Radio at Fordham, his alma mater, and told the New York Times that he would follow the advice of his wife, Sandy, on whether to continue working.

"I want to spend a lot of time with her," Scully said. "There's a lot of hoopla in this job, but it's lonely for the wife. So I want to talk seriously with her about her feelings. I want to know what's in her head. We'll talk it out over the long summer and then we'll talk to [Dodgers owner Frank McCourt].

"She's so selfless that she'll probably say, 'Whatever you feel you should do, we'll do,' and then we'll be back at square one. It's a question I get asked a lot at this age."


Setup man Jonathan Broxton played catch on flat ground twice but remained unavailable for a second day in a row because of a strained right shoulder muscle. Broxton said his armpit region felt tight and he remains day to day. . . . Utility infielder Juan Castro, 35, is expected to clear waivers today, making him a free agent and available for the Dodgers to sign at the major league minimum salary.


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