Garciaparra Will Help the Dodgers

Nomar Garciaparra won two batting titles and collected almost 200 hits in six of his first seven major-league seasons. He was considered one of the best shortstops in major league baseball and life was seemingly as good as it can get. When he left the Red Sox, he was mentioned in the same breath with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada. But he played third base last year with the Cubs and has agreed to play first base for the Dodgers this year.

In 1991 he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the fifth round, but didn't sign. Then in 1994 Boston made him their first round draft selection, 12th overall. He made is debut just two years later, on August 31, 1996, and over the final 24 games of the season he banged out 24 hit, with nine of them for extra bases.

With minor league baseball in his rear view mirror for good, he played 153 games for the BoSox in 1997, recording .306/.342/.534 numbers to go with 209 hits, 44 of them doubles and 30 home runs, good enough to earn Rookie of the Year honors in the American League.

He won a pair of batting titles, hitting .357 and .372 in 1998-99, moving him into rarified company. He was on the American League All-Star team in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003.

But since then, Garciaparra has changed teams and positions twice, rejected a four-year, $60 million deal and been sidelined by injuries.

An Achilles tendon injury cut his playing time with the Sox in 2004 and on July 31, 2004 he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in a four-team, seven player deal. The injury held him to only 81 games overall and he watched as the Red Sox stopped St. Louis in the World Series.

He suffered a ruptured groin muscle and missed 100 games in 2005. He had nine homers and 30 runs batted in on the strength of a solid September, playing 62 games and recording 230 times at bat.

He won't turn 32 until late in July and signed a incentive-ladened contract with the Dodgers, becoming a hired gun in the very best sense of the title. Whether he signs another year with L.A. depends on a number of things, including the maturation of young James Loney and how GM Ned Colletti sees the situation.

"I don't think he's caught up in 'I've got to be a shortstop ... I've got to hit third,'" said one major-league executive. "I think he realizes he's been hurt and he can't do some of the things he used to do. He's got a better understanding of who he is and where he is in his career."

Another major league general manager said, "I would say that Nomar's going to have a good year because I think he's totally recommited and he understands where he is. I don't think we'll ever see the Nomar that we saw in the past, but his willingness to change positions means that he's thinking a little differently about himself."

A 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."

Added still another major-league general manager: "Remember, he didn't lose anything. He got hurt. I think people remember what kind of player he is. It's not like he's 40 years old, trying to make a comeback."