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Small-town kid Blake DeWitt draws big-time praise

Dewitt_400

The reviews are positive. A lot of good-so-far stuff, normally followed by it’s a "work in progress."

Hey, the Sistine Chapel was once a work in progress. Blake DeWitt can handle those with an arched eyebrow, those carefully reserving a final verdict.

A natural third baseman, he’s still learning to play second. Still adjusting to being an everyday starter. Still growing by the game.

"I’m still learning, but every game I’m feeling more and more comfortable," DeWitt said. "I know I have a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but I feel good about where I’m at right now. I just need to keep working and keep getting better."

No one doubts the 24-year-old will keep working. His work ethic was never in question, not from the moment the Dodgers selected him with their No.1 pick in 2004 out of Sikeston, Mo.

Sikeston is a one high-school town of approximately 17,000, directly two hours between St. Louis and Memphis. The main attraction is Lambert’s Café, where food like okra and black-eyed peas are served homestyle.

In a Sikestown High School baseball playoff game, maybe 1,000 people would come out to cheer the locals.

"It’s a small town," DeWitt said. "You feel like you know the majority of the people there. I was fortunate to grow up there with the support the town gives its athletics, and pretty much anything that goes on there. There’s a lot of community support. It’s made it nice being from there."

Dewitt2_300 Now he’s in a big city, playing before over 40,000 every night, each sitting in his own judgment on whether DeWitt can cement his standing as the everyday second baseman.

Entering Saturday’s game against the Pirates, DeWitt was hitting .263. He has two doubles and five RBI, but has yet to homer. With his team-leading 11 walks, however, he has a .382 on-base percentage, trailing only Andre Ethier (.386).

"This spring, the job certainly wasn’t handed to him," Torre said. "He worked and showed us we needed to give him an opportunity.

"Offensively he’s done a real good job. He has a feel for the bat. He’s walked a lot. Left-handers don’t seem to bother him.

"Defensively he’s still a little rough around the bag. There are things he needs to improve on, but it doesn’t mean he’s failing. It just means it’s a work in progress."

There’s that phrase again, though DeWitt has never shied away from work. Not when he was the emergency starting third baseman in 2008, not when he had to start at second base in the playoffs for the injured Jeff Kent.

And not last season, when he went up and down from the minors a staggering six times.

"What he had to endure last year, going up and down," Torre said, "he continued to work at what he needed to work on.

"He is quiet and professional. As little as he’s played, he’s impressed the heck out of me, and everybody else. He’s someone you’re going to trust."

Torre said that when DeWitt first played third, he reminded him of Boston’s Mike Lowell.

"Just one of those blue-collar guys that you’re not going to pay attention to but he’s going to be there," Torre said. "And he’s going to do some good things. I’m not saying he’s going to hit as many home runs as Mike, but he’s going to be able to hold his own offensively and he’s going to get big hits."

And the plan is that he'll become a completed work at second base.

"I love second base," DeWitt said. "It’s definitely more active. I like being up the middle. Obviously there’s a lot of work to do. But I’m excited every night to go out and play."

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photos: (Top) Blake DeWitt ranges into left field from third base to make a catch on a fly ball by Pittsburgh's Bobby Crosby on Thursday. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press. (Middle) Blake DeWitt makes the turn at second base after forcing out Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera in an exhibition game in late March at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

 
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Correction: The Dodgers selected DeWitt with their No. 2 pick in the 2004 draft. Their No. 1 pick in 2004 was used on Scott Elbert. The Dodgers had two first rounders that year (the second first round pick was compensation for losing reliever Paul Quantrill to the Yankees through free agency). Elbert was chosen 17th overall, and DeWitt was picked 28th overall.

DeWitt nothing butt a career minor-leaguer who would be more than sufficiently challenged playing at the AAA level...
playing guys like DeWitt regularly is how teams end up in last place (where the Dodgers presently reside)....
such a shame, too, that politics play such a prominent role in such decisions, as mgt. has such huge egos that they hate to admit that they made a HUGE mistake in even selecting such a "talent" (indeed!) as their former #1 pick in the first place!!!!

In the years that the Dodgers have had slim prospects at making the playoffs, I, like I believe most Dodger fans, have cheered for certain players - Sax to Karros to Loduca to Green, etc.

I think Dodger fans are really pulling for Dewitt. Its amazing to hear the fans when he gets a hit or makes a play - we cheer louder for him.

By the way, I don't hold my breath anymore each time the ball is hit his way. Now, its just when he hits. . . At least last night he put one in the air (not the usual groundball).

Career minor leaguer? If you had real knowledge of the situation, or at least done your homework, you would know that DeWitt was playing High A ball in San Bernardino in 2007. He moved on to Jacksonville, then started was the Opening Day starter on the big club in 2008. That is not a career minor leaguer.

You don't have to like the guy, but at least disparage him with factual information, instead of throwing in the often repeated and tired arguments of ego, politics, poor draft selection, etc. It's easy to draft your fantasy team, its another thing entirely to do it for real.

DeWitt has done well so far. He's a little rough at 2nd, but give him a little time at learning the finer points of the position, isn't that part of Larry Bowa's job, to impart such wisdom? On defense I'm more worried about Russell (I'll just skip the man covering 2nd and throw the ball directly to Matt Kemp) Martin. Sure as some have suggested we can do better than DeWitt at his position, and if Chase Utley becomes available I'll be glad to have him. Until such time Blake is doing better than some and hustling more than most on the small blue wrecking crew, 2010 version.

I love your writing, Steve. You write some of the best short articles about the team. Could you do an article on Xavier Paul? I think he needs highlighted.

Big unit appears to be blinded by the bitterness we are all feeling as Dodger fans at having to endure a poor start, because looking around baseball there are only a handfull of 2B's out there that are clearly doing better than Dewitt. It isn't ego or politics that has Dewitt on the big league roster. It is in part due to his ability to play decent defensively at multiple infield pos., partly due to his propensity for getting on base, but mostly it is about money. The Dodgers G.M.'s dating back to DePodesta, have been doing their best to develop and play it's home grown talent because it is always cheaper than free agency. 2B is a one of the cheapest and any impact talent is going to be severely over priced. This allows for picking up a singular free agent talent like Manny. So instead of pissing and moaning you should be rooting. The better he does the more money there is to get a pitcher next winter or at the deadline this year. Not for nothing, Dewitt just got his fourth hit of today's game. The first time he's done that.

Good luck to the guy. I noticed his very first at bats, back when he was Bungie Cord Man bouncing between AAA and the club: he was so patient, collected, willing to work the count.

That suggested to me a guy with a good head on his shoulders. He also had pretty good hands at 3B. I think once he's spent more time at 2B he'll be just fine.

Thanks for the notes on DeWitt. He's been up and down a bit this year on both sides of the ball, but has a good chance, seems to me, to be a better than average talent at the position, with good value in 2010.

Sure, you'd rather have Utley at 2nd and Gonzalez at 1st, but no one is going to make that deal with the Dodgers to get those guys... Besides, I like seeing the homegrown guys out there DeWitt and Loney. DeWitt is an OBP machine. Much prefer him as the majority option on 2B to Carrol & Belliard. If he goes stone cold, that opinion could change, but now he's doing OK to Very Good.

It's great to see the homegrown DeWitt out there as the everyday second basement and as of this writing he is now batting .297, after going 4 for 4 on Sunday and just missing a HR. I personally don't think, although he has shown he has the power, he has to hit HRs on a consistent basis, we have Ethier, Kemp, Blake and Ramirez to handle that.


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