With his 30th birthday arriving on March 18, Sledge trained diligently. It was at age 30, coincidentally, that his successor, Roberts, emerged as a full-time force with the Dodgers in 2002."I went back to the basics, doing things I did when I was a kid when I was agile, athletic, playing basketball and football, trying to get my first step [quickness]," Sledge said. "I had to change my diet, and it's made a big difference. I'm not a health nut, but I do watch what I'm eating, staying away from desserts, fried foods, pork. And I feel a lot more energetic. My wife tells me I'm not as moody." Sledge has leadoff experience in college, both at Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State, and through his first two seasons in professional baseball. He stole 36 bases in 2000 and 30 in 2001, and he is convinced he can be an aggressive, effective baserunner again. "I know I can't be Doc [and] steal 50 bases every year," Sledge said. "He's probably the last of a dying breed of leadoff hitters -- him and [Rafael] Furcal and Juan Pierre. I feel I can bring a little more power if they put me in the leadoff role, and I can steal some bags. We all try to do the same thing when we're leading off -- get on base. "My No. 1 goal is I want to win. Everyone dreams about being in a World Series and having that ring. If I'm doing my job, whether it's leading off or not, it'll make the team better." Sledge hadn't spoken directly with anyone in the organization about the leadoff responsibilities, but he's been made aware of the possibility by the media. Black has included Sledge with the Giles brothers, Marcus and Brian, as possible catalysts in the absence of Roberts, a man revered by Sledge but a rival now in a San Francisco uniform. "I'm gonna miss him," Sledge said. "In all my years playing baseball, he was the one guy who was like a mentor to me. "He's the greatest clubhouse guy you could find. His attitude, the way he loved the game, loved being around people -- just a great person all around. There are not too many people like him around the game." There might not be a Doctor in the house any more, but there is a Sledgehammer -- and Terrmel plans to make some noise.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less