Sunday, March 09, 2008

LaRoche Injury Ends Nomar Garciaparra Experiment

Dodgers manager Joe Torre's considerations to move third baseman Nomar Garciaparra to second base and other positions have been ended -- at least for now -- with an injury to 24-year-old third base prospect Andy LaRoche.

Garciaparra, 34, had been under consideration to become a multi-position, substitute utility infielder playing not only third base and second, but shortstop and occasionally first, as Garciaparra has significant experience at all of the positions except second base.

But LaRoche -- who was to have been eased into the starting third base job -- tore the ulnar collateral ligament of his right thumb, and has undergone surgery to reconnect the ligament and repair a chip in the first metacarpal bone. LaRoche will be out until at least mid-May, and likely will be unable to resume normal play until June 1 or later.

That virtually assures that Garciaparra will open as the sole, full-time third baseman.

Speculation had been rife that Torre would favor Garciaparra over the talented young LaRoche, but many forget that it was just a dozen years ago that Hall of Famer Wade Boggs fell from favor when he played for Torre on the Yankees. Garciaparra may have been headed for a similar fate, as he would have been demoted to stopgap sixth infielder substituting intermittently for shortstop Rafael Furcal and second baseman Jeff Kent, veterans who have struggled due to injuries.

The 40-year-old Kent -- who has failed to reach the 500-at bat plateau since 2005 -- already is experiencing hamstring problems this spring. Furcal, 30, lost 30 points off his batting average last year after dealing with ankle and spinal trouble.