GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe almost danced back into camp Wednesday. He sang. He playfully reached into the dressing stall next to his own and turned up the volume on Matt Kemp’s iPod as high as it would go. For good measure, he homered in batting practice and walked off the field singing “It’s a beautiful day.”
It was as if Uribe was celebrating a new beginning to a career that looked as if it had taken a wrong turn last season.
Uribe returned to Camelback Ranch after reaching an out-of-court settlement Tuesday in San Francisco in a suit filed by a former landlord seeking $145,000 in damages for a kitchen fire at his residence in 2010 when he was with the Giants.
“Everything is good,” said Uribe, who left the Dodgers’ spring camp on Monday for a trial in the case. “Happy? Very, very happy.”
One burden had been lifted. There are more to go. For one day, however, Uribe looked light on his feet and anxious to cast off doubts about whether the Dodgers were wise to sign him to a three-year, $21 million contract.
He played in only 77 games. He started the season on the disabled list because of a hip injury. He landed on the DL again in July with an abdominal strain. Uribe’s season ended where it started: On the DL, this time after undergoing surgery in September for a sports hernia. The numbers weren’t any better. He hit .204 with only four homers and 28 RBIs, all career lows.
“A hard season,” Uribe said.
Also a lesson for the 32-year-old infielder.
Uribe said he came away from the sobering season with a resolve to resurrect the reliable player who has hit at least 20 home runs in four of his 11 big-league seasons. He wasted no time in getting back to work.
He said he hired a trainer at home in the Dominican Republic. Uribe reported to Dodgers camp last year looking as though he had gained weight. Uribe wouldn’t say how much weight he has lost. But he looks stronger in the upper body. And if his dance steps Wednesday were any indication, his feet are a lot quicker.
The goal is to avoid a repeat of last year’s injuries. Last year’s pain, he said, is gone.
“I worked very, very hard,” he said. “I just pray to God to give me health.”
Uribe’s well-chronicled struggles with the bat are just one part of the story. More significant, perhaps, is what the Dodgers need from him defensively. With the repeated injuries, the Dodgers were forced to scramble.
“The guy is a defender,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “I don’t think we talk about that enough. He’s got great hands and a sure arm.”
NOTES: NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, scheduled to be the Dodgers’ opening starter, threw against live bats for the first time this spring. “”He was good,” said first baseman James Loney, who was in the first group of four to face Kershaw. “Sharp, he looked very sharp.” . Right-hander Aaron Harang also threw live batting practice. Harang had been limited by a