ATLANTA -- Injured infielders Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu were headed in different directions on Sunday, literally and figuratively.
LaRoche, healing from surgery to repair a torn right thumb ligament, left the Major League club for a three-day engagement in extended Spring Training in Vero Beach, Fla. If all goes well, he will join Double-A Jacksonville later in the week for an official Minor League rehabilitation assignment.
Abreu, not healing from lingering right groin problems and shut down in extended Spring Training, was sent to Philadelphia to be tested and examined by the specialist that surgically repaired his sports hernia last October.
Meanwhile, the injuries to LaRoche and Abreu created an unexpected opportunity for Blake DeWitt, and with Nomar Garciaparra getting Sunday off, DeWitt was back in the Dodgers' lineup and earning yet more pregame praise from manager Joe Torre.
"You can't ignore what DeWitt has done here for somebody not even invited to Spring Training," he said. "You just want him to hold his position and be fundamentally sound, but he's gone beyond that. As opposed to not hurting us, I think he's helped us in a lot of areas. He's very impressive for me."
DeWitt's surprising play, along with Garciaparra's guaranteed contract and LaRoche's injury, could turn LaRoche from a possible Major League starter to a Minor Leaguer once he's healthy.
"If I get optioned down, I get optioned down. I can't worry about that," said LaRoche. "They had to do something with three third basemen going down. It was a great opportunity for Blake."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.