DeWitt, Denker Switch Positions

VERO BEACH, Fla- While attention has been focused upon the move of Joel Guzman from shortstop to the outfield, another switch- one which might have impact in the future- is quietly being made in the minor league camp as Blake DeWitt is now permanently stationed at second base with Travis Denker going to third.

The change of DeWitt from third to second actually started last fall in the Instructional League but, going into this spring, it was the plan to send him back to third so that he and Denker could both be in the nightly lineup at Vero Beach. However, upon further review, they decided to switch the two now since they've never really been comfortable with Denker at his accustomed spot, anyway.

Current plans are for the moves to be gradual with DeWitt at second, Denker at third one night, then go back to their more familiar positions on another evening with that to prevail for at least the time being.

DeWitt is regarded as the best hitting prospect among the younger wave coming up behind the group that's across Dodgertown in the big league camp. He's even gotten into some Dodger exhibition games so Grady Little can view what's next in line. Denker, although not nearly as well-thought-of as DeWitt, is another young hitter of promise.

For the record, he outhit DeWitt when both were at Columbus in 2004, going .310-21-68 to Blake's .283-11-65, making the South Atlantic League All-Star team in the process, the only member of the Catfish to do so. However, DeWitt was coming fast in the second half and when both were promoted to Vero Beach, he took over.

Denker went up first but did poorly there, hitting only .185 with two homers in 31 games. He admitted later it was a case of putting too much pressure on himself, trying to impress.

DeWitt came up for just eight games, hitting a lusty .419 with one home run in just eight games. He then had the most memorable at-bat in the Vero season in the playoffs.

Up against the finest relief pitcher in the Florida State League, he battled him in a 12-pitch sequence finished by a three-run blast over the right-field fence that gave Vero its only playoff victory.

That he rates as his biggest thrill in the game thus far -even bigger than the hit he got for the big leaguers in that exhibition game. "To tell the truth , that was just another game to me," he declared.

Blake was a shortstop in high school but was never better than an adequate defender at third after moving over as a pro. He's been making all the plays at second, however, has more than enough range and makes the double play smoothly. Learning the nuances of the position like stationing on cutoffs etc, is the part he's getting used to now.

While DeWitt was a first-round selection in the 2004 draft, Denker was chosen down in the 21st round out of high school in 2003. He's always displayed a lot of pop for a player who's only 5-9, having a lot of muscle packed on his 175-pound body and a quick stroke so he has the power required of a third baseman.

The change for DeWitt was made, in part, because ertswhile second baseman Delwyn Young has joined Guzman in a switch to the outfield and, not incidentally, because Andy LaRoche is regarded as the Dodger third baseman of the future, perhaps as early as 2007.

Both are happy to make the move. DeWitt says he's learned to love second in a hurry while Denker agrees that third is fine with him. "The biggest problem I have is adjusting my feet to make a throw. It's entirely different." For both, though, it seems to be going smoothly and definitely one that could hasten the arrival time in the big leagues for them.