The Dodgers lost to the Angels for the sixth time in seven tries last night, in a game marked mostly by some hilarious base-running and another wild start by Rubby De La Rosa, but let’s focus on some possibly impending roster moves.
Marcus Thames strained his left calf doubling in his first at-bat last night, with Tony Gwynn immediately coming in to replace him. Tell me this doesn’t sound like someone who’s about to take a nice long stay on the disabled list:
Thames is listed as day to day, but he already missed a month earlier this season with a strained right quadriceps muscle. After Thames pulled into second base with a double, Dodgers medical-services director Stan Conte ran out from the dugout to check on him. Moments later, the two left the field together, an obviously frustrated Thames stopping as he entered the runway leading to the clubhouse to slam his helmet against a wall in disgust.
“Initially, I heard three to four days,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “But obviously, they’re going to look at it again. That would be the best-case scenario.”
Even if Thames wasn’t old and injury-prone – which he is, don’t you know – Thames is hitting just .207/.258/.362 on the year, and has seven hits (six singles) in 26 plate appearances some returning from injury in early June. With negative defensive value and little production at the plate, there’s little point in playing a man down for several days in order to keep him on the roster. With Thames hobbled, Gwynn as lifeless of a hitter as usual, and Trent Oeltjen neither getting much of a chance (16 PA) nor doing much with it (.641 OPS), the left field hole is as big as ever.
Here’s the question, though: do you call up Sands or Trayvon Robinson? When the Dodgers shipped off Sands, which at the time I agreed with, the idea was that he just needed to get his confidence back, not that there was any specific giant hole in his game. I’d say he’s done that; he homered twice last night, giving him three in three games, and since he’s been back in ABQ he’s hitting .297/.378/.568. You can make an argument that 2+ weeks back down isn’t enough, but he’s clearly got nothing left to prove in AAA.
There’s also Robinson, who’s shown a great deal of improvement as the season goes on. While his season stats are great – .316/.386/.582 – there’s a lot more of interest when you look deeper. For most of the season, we’ve been concerned about his high K/BB rate, which was 57/16 at the end of May. That’s a factor of over three; in June, he’s cut that down to 26/13. But dig this: every time we talk about an Isotope who is putting up numbers, we also have to caveat it with the usual line about how ABQ is a high-offense environment. That doesn’t apply to Robinson – at home, he’s hitting .304/.376/.574, while on the road he’s doing even better, with a .330/.398/.591. Unlike Sands, he can play center, though he isn’t an option at first base.
They’re clearly both better options than Thames or anyone else the Dodgers are currently playing in left, but while calling them both up would probably give the team the strongest 25-man roster, you’re also not going to do that when there’s only one starting spot available.
So which do you prefer? I tend to go with Sands, simply because he’s been here before and you hope that his break from the bigs would serve him well the second time around. On the other hand, you could probably DFA Gwynn with Robinson’s experience in center. I can certainly see an argument for either.
The other news of the day is that the Dodgers are reportedly considering what fans have been asking me for years, which is moving Rafael Furcal to second base when he returns. In theory, this sounds great, right? Playing Furcal and Dee Gordon up the middle would be one of the more exciting duos in baseball, and it would strengthen the bench by having three of the Casey Blake, Juan Uribe, Jamey Carroll, and Aaron Miles group – whomever isn’t starting at third base – available in reserve. Great! Where do I sign up?
Except… it’s not that simple. In order to do that, the club would need to have seven active infielders, which is a configuration they rarely go with. That would leave room for just one reserve outfielder behind Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and whomever the starting left fielder is, which is unlikely unless the often-discussed-but-never-implemented idea of letting Blake play the outfield is revived. Of course, Blake is banged up and Uribe is awful, so you could potentially put one on the DL to make room.
Even still, as exciting as Gordon’s been, I wouldn’t consider him up for good. He’s reached base just twice in his last 21 plate appearances, sinking his season line to .246/.270/.295. Ludicrous speed is nice and all, but as the old saying goes, “you can’t steal first”. That doesn’t mean that I’m saying he needs to be sent down right now, of course; just that I’m not sure he’s proven himself enough that it’s really worth trying to make a veteran player make a position switch for him.