- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In his effort to claim the everyday job at second base in Los Angeles this summer -- as opposed to the everyday job for the Albuquerque Isotopes -- Blake DeWitt made an immediate impression in the Dodgers' Cactus League opener on Friday, an 8-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox in front of 7,209 at the Ballpark at Camelback Ranch.
In the first two innings, DeWitt cleanly handled two grounders hit his way and drove a single up the middle against a not-so-perfect Mark Buehrle, setting up the Dodgers' first run by moving Casey Blake into scoring position.
In the bottom of the third, DeWitt really made his presence felt.
With White Sox runners on first and second and none out, Paul Konerko sent a smoking liner toward center field against Ramon Ortiz. But DeWitt, looking as if he had been playing second base all his life, took two steps backward, leaped into the air and snagged Konerko's drive, the force of which turned DeWitt's body toward right field. As he came down, he dished the ball behind his back to shortstop Nick Green, who was standing on the bag and would have completed the double play if he hadn't dropped the ball.
"That's just an instinct thing," DeWitt said. "I basically just got rid of the ball however I could. I could see out of the corner of my eye that if he could catch it we might make the play, but we couldn't get it done. That's just the way it goes."
If it keeps going this way for DeWitt, he'll have nothing to worry about.
For good measure, DeWitt worked reliever Scott Linebrink for a one-out walk in the fourth and eventually scored the Dodgers' second run. Then, looking every bit the part of an everyday, major league starter, he left the spring training game after four innings.
DeWitt, whose major league experience is mostly limited to third base, is trying to make the transition to a position he has played only sparingly. But he played 45 games at second at Triple-A Albuquerque last season, continued to hone his skills in the Arizona Instructional League last fall, played almost exclusively at second with Licey in the Dominican Winter League and then voluntarily participated in the Dodgers' winter-development program in January.
This spring, he has reported for early work -- think the 7 a.m. hour -- almost every day.
"He looks very comfortable at second base," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "He had good reads over there. ... With what he went through last year, I give this kid a lot of credit. It's not that you don't accept it, but there aren't a lot of guys out there who would do it as unselfishly and professionally as he did."
DeWitt was sent to the minors no fewer than five times last year. If he doesn't win the job this spring, he'll be sent back again to start the season, leaving Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll to split time at second and probably Green as a third utility infielder.
"You can't [worry about] that," DeWitt said. "Obviously, I know what is in front of me. But as a player, you try to simplify things as much as you can and go out and allow yourself to play. I'm prepared for this, and I feel like I'm ready."
Anderson still hasn't arrived
Free-agent left fielder Garret Anderson, who signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers on Wednesday, still hasn't reported to Camelback Ranch. Torre said after the game he hadn't spoken with Anderson, a 16-year veteran and three-time All-Star who is expected to compete with fellow non-roster invitees Brian Giles and Doug Mientkiewicz for the primary left-handed pinch-hitting job.
"They said Friday,'' Torre said of when Anderson was to arrive. "I guess maybe they just mean he will get [to town] on Friday."
Link looks good against former team
Jon Link, whom the Dodgers acquired from the White Sox in the Juan Pierre trade over the winter and who could compete for one of the two open spots in the bullpen, retired the White Sox in order to close out the victory, although it was against the type of hitters who typically come to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning of spring training games.
"The thing that impresses me, aside from his stuff, is the way he throws strikes," Torre said. "He is very aggressive, which is what you like to see coming out of the bullpen late."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg