Andy LaRoche is expected to be called up from triple-A Las Vegas for the Dodgers' game in San Diego today, replacing rookie shortstop Chin-lung Hu, who was optioned to triple-A Las Vegas on Monday.
LaRoche was competing with Nomar Garciaparra to be the Dodgers' starting third baseman in spring training but suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb requiring surgery. He was reinstated from the disabled list May 3, but the emergence of rookie third baseman Blake DeWitt blocked his path to the majors.
LaRoche, who was hitting .267 with five home runs and 26 runs batted in in 37 games at triple-A, played at first and second base in recent weeks to increase the ways he could be useful to the big-league club.
Manager Joe Torre said last week that when LaRoche was called up, he would be used as a backup at first and third.
"I feel comfortable playing anywhere," LaRoche said by phone from Las Vegas last week. "First base is pretty similar to third base."
The Dodgers had two previous chances to call up LaRoche but opted for Luis Maza and Terry Tiffee while LaRoche learned new positions.
"There's always a reason for everything," LaRoche said. "They didn't make those decisions for nothing. They wanted to give me a shot at second and first."
Hu, the Dodgers' minor league player of the year last season, was batting .159 and had only three extra-base hits. He started the season as a backup middle infielder but became the starting shortstop when Rafael Furcal went on the disabled list, then became expendable when the team acquired Angel Berroa from the Kansas City Royals on Friday.
From the start of the season, Torre lamented how a shortage of middle infielders forced the Dodgers to rush Hu to the majors. But Torre said he was fairly certain Hu wouldn't be hurt in the long term by his two-plus months in the majors.
"Would it help him more if he could play at a level he could handle better?" Torre said. "Probably. But the experience he's got here I don't think is going to hurt him."
Kershaw vs. Maddux
Asked about the pitching matchup between 20-year-old Clayton Kershaw and 22-year major leaguer Greg Maddux in San Diego tonight, Torre said he was reminded of a trip he made as the New York Yankees manager to Chicago in 2003. The starting pitchers in the second game of the three-game series against the Cubs were Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens.
"It's the same type of thing," Torre said. "You have the old sage against the young upstart. The thing we have to remind Clayton about is that he's pitching against San Diego, not Maddux."
Kershaw, who is 0-1 with a 4.91 earned-run average through his first three starts, was more than 18 months away from being born when Maddux made his major league debut as a September call-up in 1986.
"It's a big challenge for me," Kershaw said. "To get to pitch against him is a pretty cool thing."
Draft pick signs
The Dodgers signed their fourth-round pick, middle infielder Devaris Strange-Gordon, to a contract that includes a signing bonus of more than $200,000. The 19-year-old son of Philadelphia reliever Tom Gordon wasn't eligible to play at Seminole Community College in Florida this season. He will report this week to the Dodgers' rookie-ball affiliate in Ogden, Utah.