Mailbag: Hot corner a hot topic

Mailbag: Hot corner a hot topic

With Andy LaRoche sidelined and Nomar Garciaparra "falling off" in 2007, why won't the team trade for Joe Crede or Brandon Inge as a "safeguard?"
-- John B., Lakewood, Calif.

If Garciaparra's wrist injury proves serious, that's an option. The presence of team official Bill LaJoie at a recent Tigers game fueled speculation of an Inge trade. But both players have relatively expensive contracts, Inge for three more years and $19 million. That would be an expensive premium for a six-week insurance policy.

Tony Abreu's lingering physical problems and the need to have someone capable of spelling 40-year-old Jeff Kent at second base could lead to the acquisition of a utility player, although Chin-lung Hu has made the move from shortstop to second base flawlessly.

Please provide some background on George Lombard, who is hitting something like .600.
-- Andy R., Covina, Calif.

Lombard, a 32-year-old, left-handed-hitting outfielder, was a high school running back recruited by Georgia, Florida State and Notre Dame, but he rejected a scholarship and signed for $425,000 as a second-round pick of the Braves. He has nearly three years of Major League service with four clubs, including the Nationals in 2006, but last season was ruined by a partially torn thumb ligament.

He's up against it with the Dodgers' already crowded outfield, even though he's 8-for-13 after Monday's triple, but Lombard knows long odds. He was once with Boston, but said he "couldn't beat out Manny Ramirez or Johnny Damon." He said being reunited with hitting coach Mike Easler, who coached him eight years ago, has boosted his confidence.

Lombard's off-the-field story is equally unique. His grandfather was once dean of the Harvard Business School. His mother, a Civil Rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was killed in a car accident when Lombard was 10.

Will Rafael Furcal be offered a contract extension before the end of the 2008 season?
-- Zev Y., St. Louis, Mo.

That pretty much depends on how he plays, how Hu plays, who is available on the free-agent market, who is available on the trade market, what other positions become a higher priority to address, etc.

Is the Ivan DeJesus currently in the Minor Leagues the son of the former Dodgers/Cubs shortstop?
-- Dan P., Sacramento, Calif.

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Yes, DeJesus is the son. He was a second-round pick in 2005 from the American Military Academy in Puerto Rico. He played at Class A Inland Empire last year and had his season cut short with thumb surgery similar to that required by LaRoche. Despite his relative inexperience, he's played in four spring games. His father played 15 Major League seasons, the first three with the Dodgers.

Of the Double-A and Triple-A pitching prospects, which are being groomed as starters and which as relievers?
-- David J., Lawrenceburg, Ken.

Taking the young pitchers on the 40-man roster, the projected starters are Mario Alvarez, James McDonald, Greg Miller, Justin Orenduff and Eric Stults. The projected relievers are Eric Hull, Ramon Troncoso and Cory Wade. Jon Meloan has been a reliever, but the club was considering moving him back to starter, his role when he began his professional career.

Which young Dodgers qualify for Rookie of the Year?
-- Keith N., San Clemente, Calif.

The obvious candidates would be Clayton Kershaw, Hu, LaRoche and Delwyn Young.

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