No matter how many times he struck out in the first two weeks of the season, Casey Blake said he never once thought that his inability to make contact had anything to do with his age.
Blake, who turns 36 in August, entered Tuesday as a career .241 hitter in March and April.
“There’s no panic,” Blake said. “I’ve been here before. I know how to handle slow starts.”
Blake, who was hitting .189 with 13 strikeouts in the Dodgers’ first 11 games, looks as if he’s starting to work his way out of his early slump.
“Sometimes I was a little late with my hands,” Blake said. “It was weird. I just didn’t have much of an approach physically or mentally.”
That’s no longer the case, he said.
Blake went into Tuesday’s game in San Francisco with only three strikeouts in his last eight games and had driven in six runs in his last six games. He hit his fifth home run of the season Monday night, tying him for the team lead with Andre Ethier.
In the first seven games of the Dodgers’ 10-game trip, Blake was hitting .286.
“I’m confident,” Blake said. “Year after year, I’ve put up numbers.”
That confidence took time to develop. Blake said slumps led to sleep deprivation early in his career.
“I’d go home and I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “I’d think about my at-bats, my approach.”
He still thinks about his at-bats at home or in his hotel room, he said, but there’s one difference.
“It’s doesn’t keep me up,” he said.
DeWitt learns on bench
Blake DeWitt says he believes he’s getting more by sitting on the bench in a major league dugout than he would getting four at-bats a game in triple A.
“I’m learning a lot,” said the Dodgers’ 23-year-old utilityman. “Just sitting on the bench and watching the game, talking to the players on the bench, it’s helped me see a lot of things I didn’t understand.”
DeWitt, who has made three spot starts, is hitting .125 (two for 16), including one for three as a pinch-hitter.
“You have a new respect for the guys who do this for a long time,” DeWitt said. “You have to be ready for so many situations. There are little situations you have to look for -- knowing when the pitcher’s hitting, knowing when a double-switch might take place.”
To remain sharp while spending so much time on the bench, DeWitt said he plays mental games with himself during batting practice.
“I’ve definitely learned how to create game situations for myself,” he said. “You might get a ground ball one time and think the bases are loaded with nobody out. What are you going to do? Or if you’re hitting, maybe moving a runner over.”
Wade on the mend
Cory Wade pitched a scoreless inning in a rehabilitation assignment with Class-A Inland Empire and is expected to be activated by the Dodgers for the opening game of their 11-game homestand Thursday.
Wade, who has been sidelined by shoulder inflammation, walked two batters.
Manager Joe Torre said that once Wade gets some innings under his belt, he could be moved into the setup role, which is in flux.
Injury-prone Hong-Chih Kuo, who started the season in that role, is struggling to find his rhythm and Torre said he’s trying to work him into a game in which the Dodgers have a comfortable lead. Ronald Belisario pitched the seventh and eighth innings Monday night but blew a save in the loss.
Jason Schmidt threw 89 pitches over seven-plus innings in extended spring training today. He will pitch at least once more in extended camp to build up arm strength before starting a minor league rehabilitation assignment, Torre said.