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Dodgers' Blake DeWitt hopes it's not deja vu

He is preparing to be the team's second baseman, just like last off-season -- before the rug was pulled from under him.

December 13, 2009|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers infielder Blake DeWitt gets high-fives from teammates Casey Blake and James Loney after hitting an inside-the-park home run agianst the San Diego Padres.
Dodgers infielder Blake DeWitt gets high-fives from teammates Casey Blake… (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles…)

Blake DeWitt spent last winter preparing to become the Dodgers' starting second baseman and what did it get him?

Only 31 games in the majors. Constant shuttling back and forth from the Dodgers' triple-A affiliate in New Mexico. A hectic schedule that prevented him from establishing a rhythm at the plate and resulted in a .204 average.

Again preparing himself to be the Dodgers' second baseman this off-season, DeWitt said he knows that next year could turn out the same way, that the team could find another veteran free agent to push him out of the lineup and into limbo. But DeWitt said he isn't discouraged.

"I took a lot from this year," DeWitt, 24, said by phone from his home in Missouri. "Being up and down six times wasn't easy, but it made me want to be in the major leagues even more. My mind-set right now is that I'm going to do as much as I can and go into spring training to win a job, no matter what the role is."

DeWitt immediately won over the fans at Dodger Stadium in 2008, when, as a wide-eyed kid who had never played above double A, he was asked to be the Dodgers' opening-day third baseman. He lost the job when the Dodgers traded for Casey Blake but returned late in the season to replace an injured Jeff Kent at second base, a position he had last played in rookie ball.

The position was expected to be his this year, only for him to learn early in camp that the Dodgers had signed Orlando Hudson.

The situation this winter is similar to last winter. General Manager Ned Colletti said he is comfortable with DeWitt at second base but acknowledges he's exploring other options.

"Barring something that's not on our radar right now, it'll be Blake DeWitt plus a veteran," Colletti said of his plans for the position.

For his part, DeWitt is doing more than he did a year ago.

When his season ended, he reported to the instructional league in Arizona. Later, he went to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball.

"I took a lot from it," DeWitt said of winter ball. "The atmosphere for the games is incredible. There aren't as many fans, but the fans are close to the field. They're on their feet the entire game. It doesn't matter if it's 10-0 or 0-0. You can relate that to a big league game."

But there were also challenges.

Playing second base for Tigres del Licey, DeWitt came down with a case of what appeared to be food poisoning.

"I lost quite a bit of weight," he said. "I'm not sure what it was. I ate something the first week I was down there and I really couldn't eat after that."

He said he was fine by late November.

But then he had to go home.

His 19-year-old sister, Jenni, was undergoing heart surgery for the second time in less than two years.

"Her heart rate was extremely high all the time," DeWitt said. "It was her second heart surgery at that age. I was definitely worried."

DeWitt said his sister has come out of the procedure fine.

His next stop will be in Texas. He will head there in the coming days to work with Matt Martin, the Dodgers' minor league infield coordinator.

"He's going to tell me if I have to fine-tune anything and I'll take that home to work on the rest of the off-season," DeWitt said.

There are those in the Dodgers organization, including Colletti, who wonder about DeWitt's ability to play second base. But there's an aspect of DeWitt that raises no doubts.

"We know the attitude and we know how hard he's going to work to get better," Colletti said. "I have confidence in him."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

twitter.com/dylanohernandez

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