first_imgGLENDALE, Ariz. – Miguel Rojas has a lot to think about.The 24-year-old infielder knows that he needs to hit better to become a major-league player. Last year at Double-A Chattanooga, his first season in the Dodgers’ organization, Rojas batted .233. That’s enough to leave anyone, even the best defensive second baseman in camp, buried on a long list of non-roster invitees.Yet when Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti sees Rojas in the field, he sees potential. All winter he’s mentioned the native Venezeulan as a legitimate candidate for a major-league job this season.“He already threw my name on the chance to play second base,” Rojas said. “I’m going to go for that job because I think I can do it.” Lino Connell, a coach in the Phillies’ organization, was Rojas’ hitting coach in Venezuela two years ago. Connell suggested that Rojas was swinging at too many pitches early in the count and needed to be more patient.Ever since, Rojas said, “I can’t be afraid to hit with two strikes. That’s kind of my plan.”Omar Vizquel, one of Venezuela’s most gifted baseball players ever, recently made some suggestions of his own. The Detroit Tigers’ new first-base coach met Rojas before a Venezuelan Winter League game in Caracas, where Rojas was playing and Vizquel was coaching.“We talked about his goals for the offensive part of the game,” Rojas said. “He was such a good defensive guy, but he had to work on something to get better and be a big-league shortstop. The biggest advice he gave me is ‘you’ve got to know who you are as a hitter and how you’re going to help your team offensively.’ ”For a player who’s never been in a major-league camp before this year, that’s already a lot to think about. There’s more.Earlier this month, Rojas got married in his native country. Fortunately for him, his wife did all the planning. Rojas reported to camp early, took 10 days off to tie the knot, then came back. It’s been business as usual, almost.Rojas said that his wife, Mariana, is staying at their home in Caracas just five minutes from the Venezuelan capital. Hundreds of anti-government protesters took to the streets this week to protest the country’s troubled economy. Some have resorted to violence and three died during the protests, according to multiple reports.Rojas said his wife had planned to fly to the United States soon, then go back to Caracas as needed during the year to help run her family’s business. A political uprising might make that difficult.Rojas admits that’s a point of concern, but his focus is here.“I was working so hard to be here and I’m going to keep doing it,” Rojas said.Versatility a keyDodgers manager Don Mattingly outlined a few possibilities for Cactus League position assignments.“All the guys we’re looking at at second (base), or looking at as an extra, are kind of all over” the field, Mattingly said.That includes Dee Gordon (second base, shortstop, center field), plus non-roster invitees Chone Figgins (second base, third base, shortstop, center field) and Justin Turner (shortstop, second base, first base).Unlike injured center fielder Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, who’s primarily a left fielder, Mattingly said that Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke are candidates to play all three outfield positions at some point. Yasiel Puig will get some reps in center field too, Mattingly said.Juan Uribe won’t be taking reps at first base anytime soon. He found himself battling for a job in spring training of last year, when Luis Cruz was the Opening Day third baseman. In the past year, Mattingly said, “I think Juan has really solidified himself.” Uribe re-signed for two years and $15 million in December.The manager mentioned Van Slyke and Turner as the candidates to back up first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.AlsoOnelki Garcia threw hard from flat ground Saturday morning. The left-hander is trying to get back on a mound following arthroscopic surgery on his elbow in November. … The Dodgers’ other pitchers were given a previously scheduled day off. There seems to be a universal recognition of Rojas’ defensive talent, and a swell of advice to bring his bat up to speed — literally. Hitting coach Mark McGwire and assistant hitting coach John Valentin have taken turns watching Rojas in the Camelback Ranch batting cages, making suggestions along the way.“(McGwire) told me try to stay in the middle of the field,” Rojas said, “because you’ll have the chance to open up the field.”In batting practice Saturday, the skinny dynamo (6-foot, 150 pounds) was spraying line drives around the outfield. He didn’t show much power, which is not surprising given his frame.A right-handed hitter, Rojas said he’s trying to drive more balls to center and left. His natural tendency is to hit the ball to right. Because of this, Rojas said he was often exploited by pitchers who jammed him inside.“I’m going to stop looking for where the pitch is at. I’m going to worry about where my head is going,” he said. “If it’s going in a straight line and the pitch is outside, I’m going to hit the ball that way; if it’s inside I’m going to hit the ball to the left side.”center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more