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Love the glove

Defense helped Valencia grad Worth get to Detroit, which visited Los Angeles this weekend

Posted: May 23, 2010 8:51 p.m.
Updated: May 24, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Valencia High graduate Danny Worth was brought up by the Detroit Tigers for his abilities as a second baseman. When Detroit visited Los Angeles this past weekend, Worth returned to the stadium in which he once dreamed of playing. Valencia High graduate Danny Worth was brought up by the Detroit Tigers for his abilities as a second baseman. When Detroit visited Los Angeles this past weekend, Worth returned to the stadium in which he once dreamed of playing.
Valencia High graduate Danny Worth was brought up by the Detroit Tigers for his abilities as a second baseman. When Detroit visited Los Angeles this past weekend, Worth returned to the stadium in which he once dreamed of playing.
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On Friday morning, 2004 Valencia High graduate Danny Worth was 45 minutes south of his hometown in a hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.

After getting some food in his stomach, the butterflies took over.

Worth admitted he got emotional.

”Just thinking about Dodger Stadium and growing up, being a Dodgers fan. Coming here with my dad, watching, dreaming I’d be here one day,” said Worth from the visitors’ dugout at Dodger Stadium prior to Friday’s game between his Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Dodgers. “It’s actually going to come true tonight.”

Worth was called up to the Tigers on May 15 from the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, where he was batting .274 with two home runs, 14 RBIs and 10 stolen bases through 36 games.

He made his Major League debut that day against the Boston Red Sox at Detroit’s Comerica Park and hit an infield single in his first at-bat, knocking in a run.

“I was on deck and I’m already nervous. I can barely think of what’s going on. Of course I have to face (John) Lackey, someone I’ve been watching these last couple of years, great pitcher and bases juiced when I’m on deck. Added pressure I don’t need,” Worth recalled. “I kind of said to myself, ‘I’m going to swing at the first pitch and try and get that line-drive hit.’ Didn’t work. Lackey spotted it on the black and I’m down in the hole already. So I swing at a curve ball and nubbed it down to first and beat him there.”

Worth wasn’t necessarily brought in for his bat, though. The second baseman is filling a spot while Carlos Guillen recovers from a hamstring strain. He is due to come off the disabled list any day. Guillen came up to the big leagues in 1998 as a second baseman, but has been hampered by injuries throughout his career. He hasn’t played second base on a regular basis since 1999. Yet Detroit is set to put him back there.

Worth is seen as a player who can be a Band-aid for the Tigers middle infield for now. At the very least, he gives them a tremendous glove.

“I know he’s an outstanding infielder. I know he’s stronger this year,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “He’s a guy who will probably end up being a utility player at the Major League level. If he hits, he’ll be a regular.”

But it’s his glove that got him here. Worth is evidence that if you play great defense and work on it, it can take you far.

“I was always a defense guy,” Worth said. “Even this past offseason, I was 24 years old and my dad was still taking me out, hitting me hundreds of ground balls.”

Worth’s father, Wendall, would take him to a Valencia tennis court and hit sharp grounders to Worth on the concrete. Make that hundreds of grounders.

It’s not a surprise to Valencia head coach Jared Snyder that Worth is the first Valencia High graduate to make the Major Leagues.
“Danny’s amazing,” he said. “I never hit more ground balls to a kid than Danny Worth.

“I’d be here on Sundays (when Worth was playing at Valencia) and his dad’s hitting him ground balls on our JV field. He was a tough, tough kid.”

Worth played three varsity years at Valencia with a group that ranks with the best in Santa Clarita Valley history. In his senior season, he played alongside Jared Clark (now in the Colorado Rockies organization) and Matt Aidem (who later played at Pepperdine).  Worth batted .411 as a senior in 2004, with five home runs and 29 RBIs.

He also went on to star at Pepperdine, where he played in 183 consecutive games between 2005 and 2007 and was a preseason All-American as a junior. That year, he batted .344 and was selected in the second round of the 2007 Major League First-Year Player Draft by Detroit.

In three seasons of minor league ball coming into 2010, he batted .245. Worth was bothered by shoulder and back injuries last year, but got healthy, got quicker and kept taking ground balls in the offseason.

“Now I’m here,” he said.

Worth had up days and down days in his first week in the big leagues.

He went 3-for-3 against the Oakland A’s on Wednesday. Then he went 0-for-4 the next day. In the first inning on Friday, he started a double play from second base, then robbed Manny Ramirez of a base hit by skidding to make a play in the hole.

Earlier, he arrived at Dodger Stadium in the afternoon. He and fellow rookie Casper Wells walked down the right field line and Worth pointed to the seats he used to watch Dodger games from. He thought of his dad and how proud he’d be. And he remembered something his dad used to tell him.

“My dad always said, ‘Defense and pitching wins championships.’” Worth said. “Maybe that’s right since I’m up here.”

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