I’m just joking… but only mostly, because only six weeks after an otherwise nondescript signing, many of the pieces are falling into place for the unthinkable to come true. In order for Aaron Miles to have had even a prayer of making the team upon signing, he was going to need to play out of his mind, get lucky with injuries to others, and have his competition for the bottom of the roster fall together in precisely the right way.
So far, that’s exactly what’s happening. Follow the steps towards the apocalypse:
Casey Blake said Sunday his back was “not great,” a day after suffering lower back spasms in the Dodgers’ game with the Giants.
The 37-year-old third baseman was injured trying to leg out a well-placed sacrifice bunt in the first inning Saturday. Blake missed four games last year with lower back pain, but he said this is in a different place, then reaching for the lower right side of his back.
Blake didn’t speculate how long he’d be sidelined, but the club considers him day-to-day.
“This is more on the ribs,” he said. “I don’t know enough about it to know whether it’s serious or not. We’ll know pretty soon. We’ll treat it and it can go away. They [team trainers] were relieved where it was, but they don’t know exactly what it is.”
Blake again said he was disappointed that he would miss games because he needs the at-bats and, with four split-squad games in two days, the rosters are thin. Blake also said he needs to adjust his warm-up routine because of the unique scheduling in the Spring.
Blake’s not wrong about needing the at-bats; coming off a lousy 2010, he has just one hit in eight spring games. We keep saying that it’s early in the spring, but with each passing day that comfort becomes less true – the season opener on March 31 is only about two and a half weeks away. Back injuries can be tricky, and it’s not at all hard to see a scenario where it takes Blake long enough to get back in the lineup that he won’t have enough time to be ready for the season and starts the year on the DL. (This is 100% pure speculation, of course.) If that happens, Juan Uribe would almost certainly slide to third base, opening up a hole at second.
Piece #2. None of the other contestants for the last spot on the bench have done much to distinguish themselves. (Yes, I’m about to quote spring stats. Yes, I know they are basically meaningless, but let’s not pretend they won’t be considered in the battle for this job.) Justin Sellers, my early preference, entered Sunday hitting .250/.400/.375 with several errors. Ivan DeJesus, the choice of many to play 2B if Uribe had to move, is at just .250/.286/.300, hardly distinguishing himself. Russ Mitchell, who can play 2B in theory and was noted by Don Mattingly as the likely 1B if James Loney was lost, has been awful, at only .091/.125/.091, getting the 6th-most PA on the team. Juan Castro, who I thought had the inside track entering camp, is at .250/.250/.500, thanks largely to that one inexplicable homer. If anything, the prospect of additional time opening up may hurt Castro, whose age track record don’t argue for additional exposure. That all opens up a spot for…
Piece #3. Miles has been pretty good thus far. He’s received the 4th-most plate appearances on the team, hitting .333/.333/.708, and tied for the team lead in homers with two. Normally, I wouldn’t even dignify a good week or two by a veteran with a history of mediocrity with a notice, but there’s at least a chance there may be something to it; Tony Jackson reports on what’s changed for Miles this year:
First, the veteran infielder is finally, fully healthy after battling right elbow and shoulder injuries for about a year. Second, his eyes have been opened to a whole new way of looking at things.
“I got laser eye surgery this offseason,” he said. “I’m seeing the ball better than I ever have. Right away, it was like night and day. My contacts did fine for me, but I had no idea how great other people could see the ball or just see in general.”
Piece #4. Miles is a switch-hitter. Castro, Sellers, DeJesus, & Mitchell are all righties, as is Jamey Carroll, who would likely see the bulk of the 2B time in this scenario. In addition, DeJesus & Mitchell can’t play shortstop. It’s not hard to see how Miles may be seen as the best choice for roster flexibility.
None of this means that Miles is any good all of a sudden, nor does it mean I really want him on the team. But if Blake really is limited or unavailable (and again, we don’t know the full extent yet, but he doesn’t sound optimistic) and Uribe slides to 3B, it’s all too easy to see a scenario where the pieces have fallen just right to make Aaron Miles a Dodger – and possibly even the Opening Day second baseman.