Blake DeWitt impresses coaches; still has chance to make major league club
PHOENIX -- Jeff Kent said on Saturday that it's still too soon to know whether his lingering hamstring strain will be healed by Opening Day.
"That's what I'm shooting for," Kent said. "I'm not one to make predictions. I'll have a better answer in a couple of days if things don't progress."
Though manager Joe Torre conceded that the chances of Nomar Garciaparra being active for the opener are "remote" because a broken bone in his hand prevents him from swinging a bat, Kent's situation is more fluid.
For example, Kent took batting and infield practice with the club before Saturday's game with the Angels and hit in a simulated game, but when he tried light running, he shut it down because of lingering tightness.
"He was disappointed. He thought he'd have more freedom," said Torre. "He thought it would be better. He couldn't really stretch out."
Torre said that the situation should be clearer on Tuesday, when the club leaves Arizona for California.
Kent said that to this point he hasn't pushed his recovery "by design," because there was no urgency without games that counted, but he acknowledged that he expected to be healed by now after receiving a cortisone injection five days ago.
"During the season the approach would have been different," he said. "It got halfway better fast, then it just stopped."
Kent has had hamstring injuries that did not require Minor League rehab assignments, but he's never been 40 years old before. He said that he won't rush to be ready for Opening Day if it means jeopardizing his health for the rest of the season, as hamstring injuries tend to linger.
He said that he doesn't know how many at-bats at game speed he will need, saying it was probably more than two and fewer than 50, but that "timing is a big issue."
If he appears in an official exhibition game, the club will be unable to back-
date his placement on the disabled list beyond that appearance. So he will initially hit in simulated games, and Torre left open the possibility of Minor League games in Florida.
With Garciaparra down, injuries leave the possibility of an Opening Day infield that includes Tony Abreu, Chin-lung Hu or Blake DeWitt starting two of the positions, with veteran Ramon Martinez backing up the backups.
The dual injuries increase the chances of DeWitt sneaking onto the roster out of Minor League camp. He's impressed coaches and Torre is intrigued, although he's still unconvinced, because he's seen so little of DeWitt because of the China trip.
Abreu made several flashy plays at second base on Saturday while going 0-
for-2 and being hit by a pitch. DeWitt started at third base, doubled in a run, then was picked off second base. Hu took over for DeWitt, went 1-for-2 and impressed Torre with a bare-handed pickup and throw of Reggie Willits' bunt.