Garciaparra Serious About First Base

There was some negative comments made about the decision to switch Nomar Garciaparra at first base. After all, he was one of the "big four" shortstops (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada) everyone was throwing roses at not all that long ago.

Then he was injured and predictably, the his stock started to drop, much like Jayson Werth's value has been compromised by the very fact that he was hit on the wrist with a fastball and no one seemed to be able to find the injury.

After Nomar lead the American League with .357 and .372 averages in 200-2001 and averaged almost 200 hits in six of his first seven major-league seasons,

He slipped to .289, then posted more mortal numbers like .310, .301 and then a .308 mark during which he played only half a season when a Last year, a ruptured groin muscle forced him to miss exactly 100 games.

Traded by the Boston Red Sox with two months remaining in the 2004 season, he watched his former teammates celebrate a World Series title while he continued to battle a pesky Achilles tendon injury with the Chicago Cubs.

Garciaparra left the Red Sox, dealt in a four-team deal that landed him with the Cubs, he wanted to maintain his status as one of baseball's best shortstops.

But returning from an early-season injury last year, he willingly shifted to third base.

Though Garciaparra may have lost some range and athleticism, he remains a .320 lifetime hitter.

"Let's face it -- you get that bat and you're getting a pretty good hitter," said a GM. "Basically, his bat is what his bat has always been. He can hit."

One longtime advance scout who watched Garciaparra closely in the final month of 2005 agrees with that assessment. "He can still hit," asserted the scout. "What kind of power he has, I don't know. I think his best power is going to be right-center. I'm not sure he's going to hit 30-35 homers again.

"I think as much as anything," guessed a scout, "he wants to validate his legacy. He wants to prove that he was more than the Red Sox and Fenway Park. Well, now is his chance."

On a team that finished 12th in the National League in runs scored, he should be a welcome addition, making Jeff Kent less of a solo target that could be easily pitched around.

Dodger GM Ned Colletti surprised Dodger fans by signing the still-young (32) shortstop-third baseman and further added to the shock by announcing that Garciaparra was quite willing to play first base.

The 'experts' smiled, admitting that if he was healthy, he would certainly add a potent bat to the lineup but predicted that if he was used at first base, he would only cut the playing time of a younger Hee-Seop Choi, who had similar numbers last season despite spending about half of the year on the bench -- if not in Jim Tracy's doghouse at least on the back porch.

But sponsors at a stadium event and a couple tour groups watched Wednesday night as new coach Eddie Murray spent about 90 minutes hitting ground balls to Garciaparra under the Dodger Stadium lights.

He had wanted to get a feel for Dodger Stadium at night before the start of the regular season, had contacted Murray, a three-time gold glover at first base, and scheduled a weekly workout before reporting, at his request, with the pitchers and catchers when they report to Vero Beach.

"It tells you who he is, what he is," General Manager Ned Colletti told the Los Angeles Times. "This is a professional."

Quote of the Week-- Jon Weisman, on his website 'Dodger Thoughts' remarked about Mike Piazza moving to the Padres. He said, "Sentimentally, a Mike Piazza return would have been lovely ... financially, the Dodgers could certainly have found $2 million for him, considering what they found for other folk ... objectively, despite five consecutive seasons of declining OPS, he's still a better backup than Sandy Alomar, Jr. It doesn't surprise me that the Dodgers passed up the opportunity to sign Piazza for Rafael Furcal's tip money, nor does it upset me. My lament remains how Los Angeles lost Piazza, not how it didn't get him back.

Dodger Blue Notes-- New Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell says he feels pressure every day he comes to the park, but it's on a different scale now. The former Dodger pitcher replaced icon Leo Mazzone, who moved on to Baltimore. During Mazzone 15-plus years as pitching coach, the Braves won 14 straight division titles and the 1995 World Series, had six Cy Young Award winners and nine 20-game winners. McDowell felt "like there's two 50-pound anvils on my shoulders," he said…Former Dodgers RHP Felix Rodriguez (Washington) and INF Jose Hernandez, signed contracts. …Former minor league LHP Glenn Bott signed with the Winnipeg Goldeneyes. In addition, Toronto signed RHP James Baldwn and Cincinnati singed Ted Power as pitcher's rehab coordinator.