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DODGERS REPORT

Martin 'treated' to start at third

May 03, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

DENVER -- Russell Martin got a day off Friday. Kind of.

Martin made his first career start at third base, something the All-Star catcher called "a treat." Manager Joe Torre referred to it as "half a day off."

Martin played third in two previous games, moving from catcher when Torre made late-game double switches. He last played the position regularly in rookie ball in 2002, but he takes ground balls in the infield every day.

Noticeably displeased when Torre rested him for the first time April 19 in Atlanta, Martin wore a huge smile on Friday.

"I just love doing it," he said. "That's what I grew up playing."

Martin had three assists and a putout in five innings Friday, then moved behind the plate when Torre pinch hit for backup catcher Gary Bennett.

Torre, himself a former catcher, said he used to play first base on his days off and that the change in positions served as a mental break. Martin said he understood the reasoning.

"It's not the same," Martin said. "You don't have to think about what you're going to do every pitch, how you're going to get this guy out and so on. And you don't have to squat the whole game."

That being said, Torre made it clear that Martin would periodically receive complete days off.

On this day, Martin's versatility allowed Torre to sit rookie Blake DeWitt while Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis was on the mound and avoid using utility infielder Chin-lung Hu at third. Hu is more comfortable at second and short. Martin's hot bat remained in the lineup -- he hit .429 over his previous eight games -- and Bennett, who started in only two previous games and was hitting .125, was able to face a left-hander.

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Jason Schmidt threw 72 pitches in a bullpen session, after which Torre said the right-hander was one simulated game away from being sent on a minor league rehab assignment. The simulated game will be Monday or Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

"I want to get to that point, in the last day or two, where I can start spinning [my curveball] earlier in warmups, earlier on the mound," Schmidt said.

Torre said Schmidt would probably start his assignment with Class-A Inland Empire.

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Utility infielder Juan Castro, released by Cincinnati on Thursday, has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Rockies, according to his agent, Oscar Suarez.

The Dodgers, the San Diego Padres and the Baltimore Orioles were the other clubs vying for Castro's services.

Because the Dodgers were unable to sign Castro, they will have to keep the 24-year-old Hu in the majors as a seldom-used bench player instead of sending him to triple A to be an every day player.

Torre said he is less concerned about Hu's development now than he was at the start of the season, when Hu was trying to pull every pitch he saw. "What he loses in at-bats, hopefully he'll gain in feel," Torre said.

Castro, who will report to the Rockies' triple-A affiliate, can become a free agent again if he isn't called up to the major leagues in 15 days.

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Jonathan Broxton threw a 25-pitch bullpen session and should be available today. . . . Before the singing of the national anthem, a moment of silence was observed for former Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi, who passed away Thursday. . . . Tony Abreu reported to extended spring training in Vero Beach, Fla. He is a few days away from being sent on a minor league assignment, Torre said.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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