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Quick Redemption for Bocachica

Dodgers: One day after baserunning blunder, he has a key pinch-hit homer--his first hit of the season--in victory over the Giants.

April 12, 2002|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — Dodger infielder Hiram Bocachica said he spent a sleepless night replaying his "stupid mistake that cost us a game," punishing himself for a baserunning gaffe against the San Francisco Giants.

Noticing that Bocachica needed a boost, Manager Jim Tracy put his arm around the dejected young player during batting practice Thursday and told him it was time to move forward.

"Wednesday night had come and gone, and we couldn't do a thing about it, so let's just move on," Tracy said. "I think he moved on."

Bocachica rebounded quickly, hitting a key pinch-hit home run in a three-run eighth inning as the Dodgers rallied for a 4-3 victory Thursday, taking two of three from the Giants at Pacific Bell Park.

Mark Grudzielanek homered to start the eighth against Giant starter Kirk Rueter and Bocachica, batting for reliever Omar Daal, followed with a shot to left on a 3-and-1 count. The seldom-used player chased Rueter with his first hit of the season, energizing his teammates less than 24 hours after failing to score from second on a double to center in the seventh inning of a 2-1 loss.

On returning to the dugout, Bocachica was greeted with congratulatory slaps on the back and high-fives that were even more effusive than usual for this newly close-knit bunch. Redemption came fast for Bocachica, though it seemed like an eternity to him.

"It was a long, long night," he said. "You just sit there and you keep thinking about the situation, about costing the team a game we should have won, and it's real hard. But that's the way the game is. One day you make a mistake, and the next thing you know you're in a situation where you can help the team.

"Trace came up to me today and really made me feel better, just saying how it was in the past and he still had confidence in me. He told me something good was going to happen and I believed him. I'm just glad it happened so soon after what happened the other night."

With one out Wednesday and the Dodgers trailing, 1-0, in the seventh, Tracy replaced Eric Karros, who doubled to open the inning, with Bocachica. Tracy figured the speedy Bocachica had a better chance than Karros of scoring on a hit.

Adrian Beltre blasted a double off the center-field wall, but Bocachica inexplicably went back to tag up although it was clear center fielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo, sprinting with his back to the field, had no chance of catching the ball.

Shinjo made a textbook play on the carom and throw to hold Bocachica at third. He was stranded there and the Dodgers had wasted another of many opportunities.

"I was ... I don't know what I was thinking," Bocachica said. "It's very tough because I'm a young player, this is only my second year in the big leagues, so I always have to do the right thing when I get a chance. Any time a manager tells you not to worry about a mistake like that it helps you out. You're thinking that maybe they don't trust you, so it was a relief.

"This team this season is ... we all stick together. It doesn't matter if you make a mistake; we're always here for each other. That's what happened [Wednesday] night. I made a mistake, but everybody just tried to pick me up. That means a lot to know you've got that type of support behind you."

Grudzielanek also has leaned on his teammates.

He expressed frustration in spring training about having been dropped from second to eighth in the batting order, and is still struggling with the change. However, he said he's determined to move forward.

"You try to perform as best you can as a professional," said Grudzielanek, whose homer ignited the first multiple-run inning against the Giants this season. "You don't necessarily have to agree with what the manager does all the time; it's just one of those things where you go out and you do your best.

"There's 24 other guys on the team who battle for you and are there for you through thick and thin. That's what it's all about. Wherever I'm at in the lineup, I have to try keep my head on straight and do what I can for the team. Look at what Boca did. Something happened the other day that probably shouldn't have happened, but he kept his head. That's outstanding."

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