A pinch of Young proves to be a good recipe

Times Staff Writer

DENVER -- Not everyone can pinch-hit, especially not every young player, which is why Mark Sweeney has been so impressed by the way rookie Delwyn Young has handled his new role.

"Mentally, he's understanding what he wants to do," said Sweeney, who is second in career pinch-hits.

Put on the opening-day roster largely because he was out of minor league options and the Dodgers didn't want to risk losing him to another club, Young is doing something he's never done in his life. But he has collected five hits in 14 pinch-hit at-bats, a .357 average. He has three hits and a walk in his last five plate appearances.

"I'm still learning," said Young, who hasn't started a game. "You have to pay more attention. You can't let little things get by you."

The educational process includes question-and-answer sessions with Sweeney on the bench that started in the spring. Sweeney said he has been careful not to "overstuff his head" with information, preferring to leave it to Young to ask specific questions.

"Taking a lot in can sometimes be too much," Sweeney said.

Young has talked to everyone from bullpen coach Kenny Howell to starting pitcher Brad Penny, trying to get an idea of what pitchers might do in certain situations.

Sweeney said he's noticed Young paying close attention to what's happening on the field in games, something Young said gives him an idea of what the opposing pitcher might do in certain counts or when Manager Joe Torre might put him in the game.

Asked how he thought he was progressing, Young said, "It's too early to tell. There are still five months left."


With left-hander Jorge De La Rosa starting for Colorado on Saturday, Russell Martin started at third base for the second day in a row in place of left-handed Blake DeWitt. Torre said he didn't know whether he would continue to play his All-Star catcher in the infield on days the opposing team started a left-hander.

Martin will catch in the series finale today and will get a complete day off Wednesday, the last game of a three-game series against the New York Mets at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers have Thursday off.

When Torre first moved Martin to third, it was as a ninth-inning replacement on April 25 for injured Nomar Garciaparra, because the Dodgers were without any other options. Torre said the next day that Martin would play at third only in emergency situations, but quickly changed course because third base coach Larry Bowa convinced him that Martin was capable of playing there.

He handled every ball hit at him Friday night and earned another start at third. "I guess I passed the test," Martin said.

Martin also said he "definitely" wanted to play in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, meaning he could miss the bulk of spring training next year.


Jeff Kent is scheduled to rest today even though he is 11 for 19 lifetime against Rockies starter Aaron Cook. . . . Setup man Jonathan Broxton, recovered from a muscle strain in his armpit, pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings Saturday. . . . Andy LaRoche was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list and optioned to triple-A Las Vegas, where he had already played four games as part of a minor league rehab assignment, going two for 13 with a home run, three runs batted in and four walks. . . . Former Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda was released from Centinela Hospital, where he was treated over two days for a minor infection.



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