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DeWitt likely starter at third base

DeWitt likely starter at third base

LOS ANGELES -- Nomar Garciaparra's slow-healing broken right hand has prompted the Dodgers to step up efforts to acquire a utility infielder, delaying the announcement of their Opening Day roster until Sunday.

Barring an acquisition, according to manager Joe Torre, non-roster rookie Blake DeWitt seems likely to be the Opening Day starter at third base. DeWitt homered off Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning of Saturday night's landmark exhibition game at the Coliseum, where an MLB record crowd of 115,300 turned out in support of the ThinkCure charity.

The Dodgers have 14 players to trim, including four (Garciaparra, Tony Abreu, Andy LaRoche and Jason Schmidt) expected to be placed on the disabled list.

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Torre said he was "leaning a certain way" on which two outfielders -- among Juan Pierre, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier -- would flank center fielder Andruw Jones in Monday's Opening Day lineup.

Torre said he would inform the players during a meeting before Sunday's final exhibition game. He wouldn't elaborate with reporters, but in recent games he dropped Pierre (.169) to eighth or ninth in the batting order while leaving Ethier and Kemp in the middle of the order. Kemp had three hits, a stolen base and threw a runner out at second Saturday night.

Garciaparra said his hand continues to improve, but he won't try swinging a bat until pain from the microfracture is completely gone. Garciaparra played through the 2000 season with a wrist injury, rushed back after 2001 surgery, and said he wouldn't make that mistake again.

However, Garciaparra is throwing again and was pleased to be taking ground balls on the Coliseum's makeshift infield, although it wasn't the first time he's been there.

"When I was 11 or 12, my soccer team played at halftime of an international exhibition," said Garciaparra. "It was really cool to be back out there. This is a great experience today."

It wasn't quite so cool for Esteban Loaiza, who started Saturday night's Coliseum game and allowed two home runs one night after being named the rotation's fifth starter.

Asked if he had ever played on a field anything like the one configured on the Coliseum floor -- 201 feet to the left-field pole, 374 feet to dead center, 300 feet to the right-field pole -- Loaiza had an immediate comparison.

"When I was 10 in a whiffle-ball game," he said.

When the game started, Ethier was playing in deep center and Jones was positioned about 30 feet behind second base -- with no left fielder.

Ethier said he's also begun taking ground balls at first base, a position he hasn't played since high school. Pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney is the backup to starting first baseman James Loney, although Garciaparra and Jeff Kent have experience at the position.

Because of the number of injured infielders, the Dodgers will likely go with 11 pitchers and keep an extra position player. There's a scramble for the last spot in the bullpen that includes former Dodger Chan Ho Park, rookie Ramon Troncoso and non-roster veterans Brian Falkenborg, Mike Koplove and Greg Jones. Not included in that group is Clayton Kershaw, the most impressive pitcher in camp, who at age 20 is expected to begin the season at Double-A.

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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