A few months ago, Blake DeWitt visited Las Vegas for a three-day vacation. He returned Friday afternoon on an unplanned business trip.
The length of his second stay also might be brief.
In between stops here, the 22-year-old took a memorable detour through Los Angeles. He found work as the Dodgers’ third baseman, and started on Opening Day.
“It was kind of unexpected for me to have that opportunity, but it was there, and I did pretty well,” he said.
DeWitt started 15 games for the Dodgers and hit .255 with four doubles and five RBIs. He was sent to the 51s on Friday and made his first Triple-A start a few hours after unpacking his bags.
In his first at-bat in the second inning, DeWitt lined a double high off the wall in left field. He went 1-for-2 with three walks and scored three runs in Las Vegas’ 12-11 win over Portland at Cashman Field.
“DeWitt is going to play at third every day, unless I give him a day off or something like that,” 51s manager Lorenzo Bundy said.
That was the plan. But after the Dodgers’ Nomar Garciaparra was injured Friday night, DeWitt could be headed back to Los Angeles today.
The previous starter at third base for Las Vegas (11-10) was Terry Tiffee, who leads the Pacific Coast League with a .463 batting average. But Tiffee is 29, and DeWitt is more valuable to the Dodgers.
A first-round draft pick in 2004, DeWitt started last season with Single-A Inland Empire in San Bernardino, Calif. This spring, injuries to Garciaparra, Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu accelerated his ascent to the majors.
“I definitely felt like I could handle it,” DeWitt said. “I wasn’t there to carry the team. I was just there to help.
“It was exciting, but I knew I had to control those emotions and try to keep it as simple as I could. Once you do get up there, and show yourself that you can handle it, it’s definitely a confidence builder.”
Garciaparra’s return and the Dodgers’ need for a 12th pitcher led to DeWitt’s move down to Las Vegas. But it was not a demotion for a player who expected to open the season in Double-A Jacksonville.
DeWitt made only one error for Los Angeles, proving his defense is major-league quality.
“He looked like a big league third baseman,” Bundy said. “He’s still a young player. His development stage was moved up by him getting promoted to the big leagues. He just needs at-bats.”
Tiffee started in left field Friday and continued his torrid hitting by going 2-for-5.
Tiffee’s single in the seventh inning drove in the 51s’ 10th run — and earned free shrimp cocktails at the Golden Gate Casino for the 6,555 fans. That’s a promotion not offered at Dodger Stadium, where DeWitt hopes to be again soon.
“The goal is always to get to the major leagues,” DeWitt said. “Where you start the season doesn’t matter; it’s where you finish.”LAS VEGAS — 12
PORTLAND — 11
KEY: Terry Tiffee and John Lindsey hit consecutive RBI doubles during the 51s’ six-run fourth inning.
NEXT: 51s (Jason Johnson) vs. Beavers (Enrique Gonzalez), 7:05 p.m. today, Cashman Field