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Notes: Loney's bat sparks Nomar's shift

Notes: Nomar shifts to third

PHOENIX -- After watching Nomar Garciaparra take ground balls at third base in a special workout on Tuesday afternoon, and especially after watching another extra-base hit by James Loney on Monday night, manager Grady Little asked himself the rhetorical question.

"Why wait?" he said.

Little moved up the timetable from Friday to Tuesday night's game with the Diamondbacks, starting Garciaparra at third and opening up first base for Loney.

"We feel like he's ready," Little said of Garciaparra. "We'll put him over there tonight and go for it. He feels comfortable. I feel comfortable.

"Loney's forced our hand [with a .448 average]. He's earned the right, and in my heart, I feel this is the right thing. If it doesn't work, we'll try something else."

Garciaparra (who has played only 34 games at the position, in 2005) is the latest in this year's all-comers tryout at third base, following Wilson Betemit, Tony Abreu, Andy LaRoche, Ramon Martinez and Wilson Valdez. Judging by the timing, the Dodgers have almost a month to see if Garciaparra is the answer. If he isn't, they have at least until the July 31 trade deadline to find a third baseman outside the organization.

"We don't know how it will work out," said Little. "We'll take a few days to see what it looks like. We're committed to it for a short period of time to make sure he's comfortable over there."

Little defined "a short period of time" as "more than a few days, less than a few months."

Little also dropped Garciaparra in the batting order to sixth, switching places with Russell Martin, who moved up to third.

"It's more about putting him in a position where it's not too much of a load on him," Little said of Garciaparra, who is batting .275 with one home run. "There's always that sense [of pressing] with Nomar when he's not getting like even one [hit] a day. He will get it going. He's been swinging better the last part of the trip. Maybe a change in scenery will do him well."

Loney likes this league: In two weeks of part-time play in the Major Leagues, Loney's bat forced its way into the Dodgers lineup and forced Garciaparra to third base. But in two months with Triple-A Las Vegas, Loney's bat couldn't come within 100 points of his .380 mark a year earlier.

Are the Major Leagues easier for Loney than the Minor Leagues?

"I wouldn't say it's easier," said Loney, who will become the Dodgers' regular first baseman as soon as Garciaparra is comfortable at third base. "It's different."

Let Loney count the ways. For one thing, as the defending Triple-A batting champion, Loney was pitched around this year.

"In their eyes, maybe I was the guy they didn't want to let beat them," he said. "Sometimes I was getting certain pitches in certain counts that were surprising. It was frustrating, but I think it helped. So that 1-0 [Scott] Kazmir slider [hit for a triple on Saturday], I don't usually hit that pitch back in the day."

Mechanically, he said his swing was "too tight" until "the day I got called up."

"I'm using my hands a lot better here than down there," he said. "I'm throwing my hands at the ball now instead of throwing my arms. My swing at Triple-A just didn't look right."

It looks pretty good now. His ninth-inning triple on Monday night raised his batting average to .448 with 13 hits in 29 at-bats since his June 10 promotion. Of those 13 hits, seven are for extra bases (two homers, two triples, three doubles). That's an .897 slugging percentage. Loney had only one home run (on the first pitch he saw) in 223 at-bats at Triple-A Las Vegas. He already has nine RBIs, more than Tony Abreu has in 96 at-bats.

Glendale deal closer: The Dodgers were expecting city officials of the Phoenix suburb of Glendale to finalize plans on Tuesday night for an $88 million Spring Training facility to be shared with the Chicago White Sox, according to The Arizona Republic. The teams would sign 20-year leases and would likely open the facility for 2009 Spring Training.

Betemit to the bench: The shuffling sends switch-hitters Betemit and Abreu back to the bench. When a roster spot is needed, Abreu is likely the one to be sent down because Betemit is already proven as a slugging pinch-hitter and is out of options.

Tsao on rehab: Reliever Chin-hui Tsao starts a rehab assignment for his shoulder with Las Vegas on Wednesday.

WIN event: The Dodgers' Women's Initiative and Network (WIN) will host a clinic on Saturday on the outfield grass at Dodger Stadium and all participants will receive instruction from Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, director of medical services Stan Conte, and former Dodgers Kenny Landreaux, Wes Parker and "Sweet" Lou Johnson. Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda will also be on hand to speak to the women. Other special guests include 11-time National Champion UCLA softball coach Sue Enquist and Maybelle Blair, who played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The clinic will run from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Cost of the clinic is $50 per person, with all proceeds benefiting the Dodgers Dream Foundation.

Coming up: Derek Lowe (8-6, 3.14 ERA) opposes Brandon Webb (7-5, 3.24) on Wednesday night in 6:40 PT matchup at Chase Field.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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