These are like the good old days for Nomar Garciaparra. He's hitting, playing shortstop, and, at this moment, healthy.
The notoriously superstitious former Boston Red Sox star isn't saying much about his recent form, but his numbers tell at least part of the story. Since being activated July 4, the two-time batting champion is hitting .306 (15 for 49) with three home runs and 10 runs batted in. Over the Dodgers' 16 games in that span, he has made 13 starts at shortstop and has played 107 errorless innings.
Citing Garciaparra's experience, Manager Joe Torre said he isn't surprised by what he has done at the plate, even though he has spent much of the season on the disabled list, first with a hand injury, then a strained calf. What Torre was unsure of was how Garciaparra, who turned 35 Wednesday, would fare defensively.
He last played shortstop regularly in 2004 and was at third base in his first stint on the active roster this season after playing first base in the past few seasons.
"I'm not saying he's old, but you don't know when the talent's going to decline," Torre said.
When Garciaparra was asked if playing shortstop was like riding a bicycle, he replied, "I've never been off a bike that long."
Garciaparra said playing the position feels "familiar," but that he is still in the process of becoming reacquainted with seeing the game from that vantage point.
"I'm still working on it," he said. "Things come over time."
Torre said he is unsure whether Garciaparra can be a long-term solution to replace the injured Rafael Furcal, which is why the Dodgers remain in search of a shortstop as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline nears.
That Garciaparra and 40-year-old second baseman Jeff Kent limit the Dodgers' range in the middle of the infield might not be Torre's greatest concern.
"I think we certainly have to be mindful that this is a guy who reached for a ball down the third base line and his calf exploded," Torre said, referring to how Garciaparra landed on the disabled list the second time this year.
Garciaparra, who has spent significant portions of the last five years on the DL, said he's not concerned.
"I'm not worried about the physical part," Garciaparra said. "I'm just going out there and playing. I realized some time ago that I can't control a lot of this stuff."
The Dodgers have released left-hander Matt Riley and veteran major league infielders Ramon Martinez and Mark Bellhorn.
Riley, 28, was 2-1 with a 2.88 earned-run average and 55 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings of relief at triple-A Las Vegas this season.
Martinez, 35, who played 149 games for the Dodgers in 2006 and 2007, was plagued by injury this season and appeared in only 28 games at Las Vegas, batting .287. Bellhorn, 33, a key member of Boston's 2004 World Series champion, was let go after playing 59 games for double-A Jacksonville, where he hit .242.
Times staff writer Kevin Baxter contributed to this report.