Sounds like "E-5" could become a commonly heard saying at Dodger Stadium....
LOS ANGELES -- Ready or not, Cesar Izturis starts at third base for the Dodgers Thursday night.
It's an ambitious experiment, to turn the Gold Glove shortstop into a third baseman in two days after the Dodgers gave Nomar Garciaparra an entire Spring Training to move from the left side of the infield to first base.
Ironically, Garciaparra said he moved from short to third last year with the Cubs on one day's notice when Aramis Ramirez was injured.
"It's not easy and he's going to make mistakes," Garciaparra said of Izturis. "Instead of putting a lot of things in his head, I just told him he'll learn by his mistakes and not to hesitate to ask questions. Everybody realizes it's not easy, and we all appreciate what he's doing for the team. To do it on the fly says a lot about him."
Izturis, after taking ground balls at third for the second day and bouncing many throws, said he's not yet comfortable at a position he hasn't played except for two innings of Instructional League.
"It's a lot different than shortstop," said Izturis. "I'll be nervous."
Izturis will be making his first Major League start since returning from Tommy John elbow reconstruction. It was Dr. Frank Jobe's hope that Izturis would return as a second baseman to put less stress on his elbow, which also has degenerative arthritis.
Nobody considered third base until it became clear that Bill Mueller might not return from knee surgery this year, or ever. Izturis just completed a month-long Minor League assignment without playing the position.
Izturis, an All-Star last year, lost his starting shortstop job because of the injury, as Rafael Furcal was signed to replace him. Manager Grady Little made it clear to Izturis last week that if he wanted significant playing time, it would come only at third base. After initially resisting, Izturis said he reluctantly agreed because he had little choice if he wanted to play.
"I have to show everybody that I'm healthy," said Izturis, who will play with a glove borrowed from Furcal that is one inch longer than Izturis' shortstop glove.
The assumption is that a healthy Izturis would be dangled to acquire pitching help before next month's trade deadline. The irony is that if Izturis handles the position and provides offense, the Dodgers might need to keep him there.
"A lot will be dictated by the offense he brings," said Little, who caught Izturis' throws at first base during drills, but hasn't seen him play on a daily basis. "We feel he'll bring a little more excitement to the lineup and hope that will be the case. He understands there still might be a few things that happen in the course of the game that won't be routine. I, we, whoever watches should not make a hurried decision on it. We know everything will not run smoothly every single play down there. He understands that too."
Little said he never asked Furcal if he would play third base. He also said he wouldn't be surprised if Izturis makes the transition in "two or three days" because "he's a good enough athlete."
Izturis isn't so sure about that.
"I've got to make the adjustment and get used to it," he said. "It's different. The tough play is the slow roller to the backhand side. My first game, it'll be like Opening Day. Like last night. A little butterflies, a little nervous."
Izturis said his elbow occasionally is stiff when he first hits the field, but it loosens quickly. His arm action appears to be shorter and quicker than before the surgery.
"Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork." - Willie Stargell on Sandy Koufax