Betemit keeps mak­ing most of ev­ery swing

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - By Ben Bolch

Per­haps the best way for the Dodgers to view it is that they haven’t so much lost an ev­ery­day third base­man as they’ve gained the hottest pinch-hit­ter in base­ball.

Wil­son Betemit’s suc­cess off the bench — he was four for five as a pinch-hit­ter with three homers, a dou­ble and six runs bat­ted in be­fore the opener of the Free­way Se­ries on Fri­day night at An­gel Sta­dium — has sur­prised even him.

“It’s un­be­liev­able,” said Betemit, whose three-run, pinch-hit homer in the fifth in­ning Wed­nes­day lifted the Dodgers to a 5-4 vic­tory over the St. Louis Car­di­nals. “I don’t go up there and think ‘home run.’ I just try to put the ball in play.”

Betemit said his swing had im­proved since he was benched ear­lier this month af­ter his av­er­age plum­meted to .125. When he’s not in the start­ing lineup he hits in the bat­ting cage dur­ing the game to pre­pare for po­ten­tial late-in­ning op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“Ev­ery time they give me one I have to be ready,” said Betemit, who had only one homer in 68 ca­reer at-bats as a pinch-hit­ter be­fore this sea­son but is now nearly half­way to the ma­jor league record of seven pinch-hit homers in a sea­son.

While ac­knowl­edg­ing that Betemit has been more pro­duc­tive as a re­serve, Man­ager Grady Lit­tle said he would most likely in­sert him into the start­ing lineup for the fi­nal two games of the Free­way Se­ries, once as the des­ig­nated hit­ter and once as the third base­man.

“He un­der­stands that be­cause he’s used as a pinch-hit­ter for us at this point in time doesn’t mean that’s go­ing to be his per­ma­nent role,” Lit­tle said. “He’s try­ing to work him­self back in there to play ev­ery day.”

Does Betemit, who has voiced a strong pref­er­ence for start­ing, be­lieve that his home­run tear has put him back on the brink of be­com­ing the reg­u­lar third base­man?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t make that de­ci­sion. If they put me in at the start of the game, I’ll be ready. If not, I have to do like right now and be ready ev­ery time they need me.”

Lit­tle used the off day Thurs­day to switch Brett Tomko and Derek Lowe in the ro­ta­tion, al­low­ing Lowe to pitch Sun­day on reg­u­lar rest and Tomko to pitch Mon­day on an ex­tra day’s rest. Tomko was avail­able out of the bullpen Fri­day. . . . Reliever Tim Ha­mu­lack, who was 0-1 with a 4.00 earned-run av­er­age and one save in seven ap­pear­ances for triple-A Las Ve­gas, un­der­went el­bow lig­a­ment-re­place­ment surgery Fri­day.

Andy LaRoche has been walked with much greater fre­quency since his pro­mo­tion to the ma­jor leagues, and it fig­ures. Af­ter hit­ting mostly cleanup in the mi­nors, LaRoche has been dropped to the No. 8 hole with the Dodgers, where he rarely sees many hit­table pitches while bat­ting in front of the pitcher.

“I’m kind of an ag­gres­sive hit­ter, so this has been dif­fer­ent,” said LaRoche, who had a team­lead­ing four in­ten­tional walks in only 10 games be­fore Fri­day. Of his eight other walks, LaRoche es­ti­mated that he had been pitched around five times.



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