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DeWitt being tutored at second base

DeWitt being tutored at second base

LOS ANGELES -- Casey Blake, eligible for free agency after this season, said he's enjoyed his time with the Dodgers so far, but "it's too far ahead" to think about whether he'd re-sign with the club.

Club management isn't issuing any declarations of its intentions, but the fact that Blake DeWitt is playing second base exclusively at Triple-A Las Vegas is a great big hint.

Only months ago, DeWitt had come from nowhere to not only become the third baseman of the future, but of the present. He leaped past the injured Andy LaRoche and started Opening Day, along with 76 of the club's first 103 games.

But DeWitt slumped; the club dealt for Blake and is 12-7 since he arrived to shore up the position. Offensively and defensively, he has been everything the Dodgers have looked for in a third baseman since Adrian Beltre left.

Meanwhile, 40-year-old second baseman Jeff Kent, whose bat has heated up with the arrival of Manny Ramirez, is "looking for the finish line," his way of saying this is his farewell tour without officially retiring. So the Dodgers will need a new second baseman.

If the Dodgers had no desire to keep Blake and planned for DeWitt to return to third base, they wouldn't be giving DeWitt a crash course at second. Since he was sent down on July 27, he's been tutored daily by special assistant Jose Vizcaino and infield coordinator Matt Martin.

This isn't DeWitt's first foray at the position. A shortstop in high school who was moved to third base when the Dodgers drafted him in the first round in 2004, he spent nearly all of the 2006 season at second base because the club believed LaRoche was more advanced and possessed the power potential normally associated with a corner infield position.

Now LaRoche is gone as he was dealt to the Pirates in the Ramirez trade. Blake is the starting third baseman, his $6.1 million salary being paid by Cleveland and no doubt looking for a multi-year deal as a free agent. And how is DeWitt handling second base?

"He's doing a good job," said reliever Tanyon Sturtze, promoted this week after playing with DeWitt the previous two weeks at Las Vegas. "I think Blake will be able to get the position. Is he ready now? I couldn't say that. But he's out there every day before anyone gets to the park until game time."

Meanwhile, manager Joe Torre said he nearly started Nomar Garciaparra at first base for James Loney on Friday night against Milwaukee left-hander Manny Parra, with Angel Berroa at shortstop. Moving Garciaparra for an occasional start at first base is a likely adjustment if and when Rafael Furcal returns from back surgery.

Torre said he spoke to Furcal on Saturday and doesn't expect him back before rosters expand on Sept. 1, even though there are indications that Furcal believes he's ahead of schedule.

"Whatever we get from him will be a plus," said Torre. "It's not fair to count on him on an everyday basis."

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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