SAN DIEGO -- Elian Herrera, promoted this week from Triple-A Albuquerque as a speedy infielder, was signed by the Dodgers in 2003 as a slow catcher.
Herrera, who got his first Major League start Wednesday at second base and batting second, said he originally was signed by the Dodgers as a catcher after trying out with the Yankees. He hurt his elbow and, while rehabbing, spent time running on the beach in the Dominican.
"I built up my legs and I started running faster," Herrera said.
Herrera also took balls in the infield and outfield while rehabbing and coaches liked his actions and decided to move him out from behind the plate.
But that didn't mean he was on a fast track to the Majors. In fact, that was nine years ago. He spent three years at the Dodgers' academy in the Dominican Republic.
"If I hadn't come to the States after that, I wasn't going to play anymore," he said.
There was another three years in Rookie and Class A before he said his game came together while playing for Carlos Subero at Class A Inland Empire, where he stole 42 bases. He had 32 and 33 steals the next two years and had nine more at Albuquerque.
"He taught me a lot," Herrera said of Subero. "He taught me what kind of player I am."
Herrera wasn't protected in the Rule 5 Draft or invited to Major League Spring Training, but he was hitting .358 when promoted. A .404 average against left-handed pitching earned him a spot in Wednesday's lineup against left-hander Clayton Richard.
Herrera said his confidence was boosted by success playing winter ball in the Dominican.
"I played with a lot of good players, and if you can play in the Dominican, you can play here," Herrera said.