GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Blake DeWitt might not be the Dodgers' starting second baseman when the regular season begins exactly six weeks from Monday. But at least he knows this year that if he does get that opportunity, he is fully prepared for it.
More importantly, manager Joe Torre and the front office know it, too.
A year ago, DeWitt came to spring training as the guy tentatively tagged to replace the retired Jeff Kent, at a point when DeWitt had appeared in all but 27 major league games at the position. Basically, he would learn as much of it as he could in spring training, then learn the rest on the fly, an idea with which the organizational brass was clearly uncomfortable.
So uncomfortable, in fact, that the club signed veteran second baseman and three-time Gold Glove winner Orlando Hudson mere days after the start of camp, putting DeWitt's big chance on hold for a year. But as it turns out, that might have been the best thing that could have happened to the promising young infielder, who got plenty of valuable experience at second in the minor leagues, a little more in the fall Instructional League and a lot more in the Dominican Winter League, where he played for the Licey Tigers.
"There is no doubt that I'm more prepared now,'' DeWitt said. "Last year, it was still kind of new to me. Even after winter ball, I went down to Texas and worked with [minor league infield instructor] Matt Martin, which helped a lot. The big things I had to work on were footwork and turning the double play, which were a lot different from anything you do at third base. I just kind of had to find a comfort level, and I think I have done that now.''
His hope is that Torre, general manager Ned Colletti and the coaching staff will reach that same comfort level after watching DeWitt in the Cactus League. All indications are that the job is his to lose, especially since he is the only one of the three candidates who could be expected to play there every day -- utility infielders Jamey Carroll and Ronnie Belliard probably will share time there if DeWitt starts the season in the minors.
But if DeWitt has a bad spring offensively, he'll go to Triple-A Albuquerque so he can get regular at-bats rather than sitting on the bench in the majors.
"Everything happens for a reason,'' DeWitt said. "There is a lot of stuff in this game that you can't control, but one thing you can control is to come in and play hard every day and try to learn as much as you can.''
First workout waterlogged
The Dodgers' first workout of the spring for pitchers and catchers was, quite literally, watered down. Although the rain that fell steadily on Camelback Ranch all day Saturday and for much of Saturday night had given way to sunshine, there was so much standing water on the Dodgers' three major league practice fields and the side pitching mounds that they were rendered unusable.
The team was able to improvise, though. The first throwing sessions of the spring for pitchers were moved to the minor league side, where the mounds were somehow drier. The handful of position position players who have reported to camp early, along with catchers when they weren't catching pitchers, took batting practice in the indoor cages.