Earlier today, Tony Jackson of ESPN LA participated in a live chat (count how many times Eric Stephen’s name shows up!), and about halfway through he dropped an interesting nugget regarding his thoughts on the backup shortstop competition:
I think barring an injury, Green, Berroa and Hu are probably all headed to Triple-A to start the season (assuming Green and Berroa are willing to go). The backup SS will be Jamey Carroll is the backup SS, with Casey Blake able to fill in there on occasion. Joe says if DeWitt is the regular 2B, he’ll play ONLY 2B because Joe doesn’t want him moving around. If somebody gets hurt, they can always bring one of those guys up from the minors when the need arises.
Backup shortstop has been a surprisingly common topic of conversation around here this offseason, no doubt due to the fact that 7 of the 8 lineup spots are sewn up and we have to talk about something. Whether it’s been bemoaning the signing of the old and busted Nick Green or Angel Berroa, wishing that Felipe Lopez had been signed (it’s not too late!), trying to talk ourselves into Alfredo Amezaga because he’s a lefty, or outright requesting Chin-Lung Hu, we’ve had no shortage of thoughts on it.
With all those options, one route I never considered they might go with is to not carry a backup shortstop at all. If Jackson’s feeling is correct (and you’d have to assume that Blake DeWitt wins the 2B job in this scenario, since otherwise DeWitt would be in the minors and Carroll would be needed at the keystone) then Jamey Carroll would step in to give Rafael Furcal a rest, with Casey Blake (hilariously!) being the emergency option.
In some ways, it makes sense. Green, Berroa, and even Hu are all varying degrees of terrible. None will help you with the bat, Green won’t help you much with the leather, and Berroa is so bad that he might actually open a hole in the goddamn space-time continuum. If that’s the case, why bother? No need to add yet another righty to a righty-deep bench when that righty can’t hit and can only play shortstop in name only; much better to save that space for the lefty bat of someone like Doug Mientkiewicz, Xavier Paul, or even Brian Giles.
The only problem is, of course, that Carroll’s not much of a shortstop either. He hasn’t even played an inning there in either of the last two years, and considering that he was -6.7 on the UZR/150 scale before that, it’s hard to think he’s improved much headed into his age-36 season. Still, if he’s only starting once every ten games or so, you’d have to think he couldn’t kill you that much – and if anything happened to Furcal, well, Albuquerque’s not all that far away.
But man, Casey Blake at shortstop – imagine that? You’d have to think that would only happen in the sort of emergency situation that would require Blake’s left-side partner to be Russell Martin over at the hot corner. Fun fact, though: Blake has played two innings of shortstop in his career, back in 2008 for Cleveland (on the same day Eric Stults was shutting out the White Sox). Who was his middle infield partner for those two innings? Jamey Carroll. So you think it can’t happen? It’s already happened.