Repko Moving Up In the Order of Things

VERO BEACH, Fla.- In the Dodger spring training clubhouse, the high number guys - mostly rookies and non-roster types - are congregated in one corner. The more established performers dress in the opposite corner for the most part. It is a mark of how far Jason Repko has moved up in the pecking order of things that his locker, which was tucked in that far space a year ago, is now halfway across the room.

Repko was assigned No. 75 in 2005 when at first, he was given little change of making the team. However, a splendid spring changed all that; so much so, that, except for an abbreviated eight-game stint in Las Vegas, he was a Dodger, winding up with 129 big league games and acquiring No. 17 in the process.

Now, he's here trying to build on that, coming into camp a bit earlier for position players aren't required to report until Monday. However, "It was cold back home and I couldn't work out the way I wanted to so I decided to come down here now. I have to show the new staff what I can do."

Home for Repko is in Washington State. Oh, he did join an ever-growing number of Dodgers working out in Arizona but "For only a week. I got engaged and bought a house so I didn't want to be away too much."

Now, though, there's that new staff headed by manager Grady Little that he has to display his talents for. Plus there's the fact that he 's an outfielder and that seems to be the most troubled area for the team to deal with as the training sessions start. Jayson Werth won't be able to go for some time because of a wrist injury and who know how much the brittle J. D. Drew can play.

"Exactly," agrees Repko. "And I wound up only hitting .220 last year and I know that I'm a lot better hitter than .220."

Actually, it was .221-8-30, certainly lowly enough it had to be cause for concern. A good part of the problem he feels was the adjustment he had to make in his game.

"I've always played every day and now they had me sitting a lot and then when I did get in it was often in the eighth or ninth inning. There was one stretch where I went 10 days and only got one at-bat that whole time.

"Then, when you finally do get up ,you feel like this may be my only opportunity to do something so you press, trying to make the most of that chance. Oh, they tell you not to take that attitude so you tell yourself that but you really can't help it."

What Repko was able to demonstrate last year was that he's a player who personifies "hustle" and very strong defensively. Thus, those late inning sojourns in the field. Naturally, he'd like much more than that this time around.

That's why he's here earlier than required. The role he's being cast in at this stage is as a reserve who'll fill in, mostly in left behind Jose Cruz or in center where the notion is that new addition Kenny Lofton is not likely to be a guy who can play 150 games.

All this means that Repko could have a key role in any case; a role he feels sure he can build on. Which means that his position in the eyes of management befits his new locker space- far removed from being a questionable rookie.