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The Newcomers
2003-07-21 08:45
by Jon Weisman

Players who were not on the 25-man-roster when the season began - Rickey Henderson, Jeromy Burnitz and David Ross - hit the first four of the five Dodger home runs Sunday.

Henderson has extended his godsend streak into Week 2 - providing not only a lift on the field, but the biggest excitement for the fans outside of an Eric Gagne appearance.

And the trivia! Here are two great Henderson items to take with you:

  • Henderson broke free of Ty Cobb to become the first player to homer in 25 consecutive years. (Courtesy of Lee Sinins.)
  • What did Henderson do in his first Dodger Stadium at-bat? Grounded out - Ray Knight to Keith Hernandez - off Bruce Sutter on July 8, 1980 in the All-Star Game. (Courtesy of Vin Scully and Retrosheet.
The Dodgers won't get to see Fred McGriff hit his 500th home run, but it looks like we may get No. 300 out of Rickey. He now stands at 297.

Burnitz, meanwhile, does look like he can hit the ball, but his outfield play remains a question. He's already making errors, and on plays I wasn't even worried about - balls hit in front of him.

Sunday, Jim Tracy backed off the idea of moving Shawn Green to first base when Dave Roberts returns - on the theory that Green has too much to worry about at the plate to take on a position change. This strikes me as hogwash - will a position change actually make Green more disappointing at the plate?

An alternate theory would posit that Green would be galvanized by making a move that might help the team. Because while Dave Roberts may not return at full-strength offensively, the Dodgers could really use his defense.

No, Rickey probably can't play every day - I disagree with Bill Plaschke's column Sunday that argued that the 95-degree heat was no excuse to keep Henderson on the bench - but the Dodgers probably will not want to bench Henderson too many games.

Until there is a new McGriff sighting, I think the choice of how to align the Dodgers when Roberts comes back comes down to whether you think the Dodgers will benefit more from having Roberts' defense in the lineup, or Ross' bat, since he would be the domino that topples on a Green move to first base.

I'll accept the idea that given the Dodgers' offensive needs, Roberts' defense isn't supremely important, but I'm sorry, I won't accept that the Dodgers' $15-million man can't handle a move to the easiest of all defensive positions.

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