Nomar learning a new position with a new team

Updated: March 3, 2006, 6:36 PM ET
Associated Press

VERO BEACH, Fla. - Nomar Garciaparra was supposed to be in Boston forever.

The fans loved him, he loved them back.

In earning elite status among big league shortstops in his 8 1/2 seasons with the Red Sox, Garciaparra won two AL batting championships, hit over .300 six times and played in five All-Star games.

Things began to sour after the Red Sox offered him in a potential trade when they tried to acquire Alex Rodriguez before the Yankees got him prior to the 2004 season.

So now, after a stint with the Chicago Cubs, Garciaparra is playing with the team he grew up watching, and learning a new position as well.

"You never know what's going to happen - you can't predict anything," Garciaparra said at the Los Angeles Dodgers' spring training facility. "I've never looked too far ahead. I've gone where life has taken me and been grateful. It's gotten me to another wonderful place, and I'm excited.

"I don't see it as a new beginning or a fresh start. I look forward to new experiences, new challenges. I'm looking forward to being part of this team."

As a small part of his transformation from shortstop to first base, the 32-year-old Garciaparra stood before his locker following a workout Friday, repeatedly throwing a baseball into one of his new mitts to break it in.

Earlier, he squirted some liquid leather conditioner into the glove.

"I've got a lot of time," he said with a smile. "I'm working with three of them. I've got an idea which one I'll be using."

The one he used Thursday worked very well - he made two outstanding plays in his debut at his new position, ranging to his right to take away potential hits and making perfect tosses to pitcher Aaron Sele covering first.

"It's a learning process," Garciaparra said. "At some point, I won't be thinking five million things in my head. Maybe that will come at the end of the year. Comfort comes when you do things instinctively, you don't have to think."

When asked the most difficult adjustment in changing positions, Garciaparra laughed and replied: "Everything."

Staying healthy would seem to be Garciaparra's No. 1 priority, since injuries have limited him significantly in three of the past five seasons, causing him to miss 324 of a possible 486 games.

He was sidelined for 3 1/2 months last year after tearing his groin while leaving the batter's box April 20, and wound up hitting .283 with nine homers and 30 RBIss in 62 games for the Cubs.

"Injuries are a part of the game," he said. "You can either sit and sulk or figure out what to do to come back. Everybody was telling me I wasn't coming back last year. I felt I could. I worked hard, wanted to get back. I did the best I could the last two months.

"I felt great at the end of last year. I don't see any limitations. I just go out and play."

Garciaparra turned down a four-year, $60 million extension offer from the Red Sox after they failed to acquire Rodriguez, and he was traded to the Cubs midway through the 2004 season. Boston then won its first World Series in 86 years.

Garciaparra was happy for his former teammates and the fans, and the Red Sox showed how they felt by voting him a three-quarters World Series share despite his absence.

"Those people embraced me. I embraced them back," he said of the fans. "I've always said, all the success I've had, I'm grateful for my teammates."

Pitcher Derek Lowe played with the Red Sox from 1997-2004 before joining the Dodgers last year.

"He's a great teammate," Lowe said of Garciaparra. "The skills are still there. He's just been a little banged up the last few years. He's got a lot of pride - he'll work his butt off to get back to where he was."

First-year Dodgers manager Grady Little is also familiar with Garciaparra, having managed the Red Sox in 2002-03. Garciaparra played in 156 games in each of those seasons, batting .310 and .301, respectively, with a total of 52 homers and 225 RBIss.

Little said he's confident Garciaparra will adjust to first base without any major problems.

"And overly confident he'll drive in a lot more than he lets in, starting opening day," the manager said.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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