Dodgers activate Izturis, plan to play him at third base

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers activated Gold Glove shortstop Cesar Izturis on Tuesday and plan to play him at third base.

Manager Grady Little announced the plan before the Dodgers faced the Seattle Mariners, saying Izturis will be the team's everyday third baseman -- at least for now -- starting Thursday night.

The 26-year-old switch-hitter was an NL All-Star for the first time last year before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery in September to repair degenerative arthritis in his right elbow.

To make room for Izturis, the Dodgers moved third baseman Bill Mueller from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL and optioned infielder Willy Aybar to Triple-A Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League.

Izturis completed a minor-league rehab assignment for Las Vegas over the weekend. He hit .271 in 15 games for the 51s but didn't play third.

He said he's only played the position once, for two innings in an instructional-league game in 1998 while a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I just want to play every day, and right now they need a third baseman," he said. "It surprised me a little bit, but it's the best thing for the team, so I've got to go out there and do whatever it takes to help us win games.

"I've never played third before, but I think if you play shortstop, you can play any infield position. I was prepared in my mind to play my position when I came off the DL, but right now there isn't a spot over there -- and I want to play every day, so I've got to take it. My arm feels great, 100 percent. I'm excited that I can be on the field," he said.

Izturis won a Gold Glove in 2004. The Dodgers signed shortstop Rafael Furcal to a three-year, $39 million contract last December. Entering Tuesday night, Furcal had committed 16 errors in 66 games -- one more than all of last year in 154 games with Atlanta. Izturis committed only 10 errors in 159 games in 2004 and 11 in 108 games last year.

"There's reasons Furcal has struggled," Little said. "The best part of his season is ahead of him."

Little said Izturis would spend a couple days working out at third before starting Thursday night against the Mariners.

"You can't say enough good things about the way he took to this," Little said. "He wants to play and help the team the best he can. It's a tough decision for him and us. The decision was made today.

"We're moving him over there because we feel like it's going to make us the best we can be right now," he said.

When asked if Izturis was the everyday third baseman, Little replied: "For now. Two weeks from now, I'll let you know."

Mueller underwent surgery on his right knee May 15. He is expected to be sidelined for at least another month.