Dodgers Facing Roster Choices as Injured Players Return

At some point before Clayton Kershaw throws the first pitch of tonight’s game against the Astros at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers are expected to activate Jerry Hairston off the disabled list, since the veteran has reported no trouble with his sore hamstring in two rehab games for Albuquerque. On Sunday & Monday, Matt Kemp & Juan Rivera are expected to begin rehab stints of their own for the Isotopes, with Kemp scheduled to return to the Dodgers on Tuesday against Milwaukee and Rivera, healing far ahead of schedule, potentially returning later in the week. In addition, while we haven’t heard any news about a possible rehab stint for Juan Uribe, the news on his injured wrist is positive, as he’s been cleared to resume baseball activities and is eligible to return on Tuesday as well.

All of a sudden, the walking wounded are beginning to heal, and the Dodgers are going to have some roster decisions to make. If it was as simple as sending down those who were recalled to take the four spots in the first place, then the Dodgers would be bidding farewell to Justin Sellers (for Hairston), Jerry Sands (for Kemp), Elian Herrera (for Uribe), and Scott Van Slyke (for Rivera).

Of course, rarely is it ever that simple, for much has changed since they left, particularly in the middle infield. Mark Ellis is now lost until July due to his leg surgery, Dee Gordon probably would have been back in the minors by now if the injury situation hadn’t destroyed all roster flexibility, and Sellers may have his own injury concerns after being scratched from Wednesday’s lineup with leg numbness. That means the club that these veterans are returning to has no obvious second baseman, a shortstop who may not be up to the task, and could be without the main backup at both positions.

But let’s start with the obvious moves first. When Kemp & Rivera are both back, Van Slyke & Sands are each going back down. Van Slyke’s pinch-hit homer aside, neither has done a whole lot in limited time and neither is served better by riding the bench in the bigs than playing every day in the minors. I’m hardly Rivera’s biggest fan, but he’ll provide the righty alternative at first base that James Loney sorely needs and fit in with Bobby Abreu & Tony Gwynn into a left-field trio that could actually be productive if used properly.

For Hairston, well, you’ve got some infield decisions to make, and that depends in large part on Sellers. If Sellers goes to the disabled list, then he’s an easy swap for Hairston, though that comes with the downside of having to rely on Gordon (who may not be ready) and Hairston (who looked awful there in camp) at shortstop. That’d leave you with some combination of Hairston & Adam Kennedy at third and Ivan De Jesus &¬†Herrera at second, with some mixing between the two groups. When Uribe returns, De Jesus would almost certainly be farmed out, since Herrera has played surprisingly well in his short time with the team.

If Sellers can avoid the DL, De Jesus would go down today for Hairston, probably leaving Herrera as the primary second baseman. When Uribe returns, you could send down Herrera (if you need to keep Sellers for shortstop or if he can’t keep up his hot start), or even Gordon, if he’s still struggling.

Honestly, I’d really like to see what happens if De Jesus would ever be given a real shot at every day play, and the absence of Ellis would seem to be a prime opportunity for that. But there seems to be almost no route for that to happen, not with the presence of at least five others who can spot at second and the organization’s complete reluctance to play him, calling him up only after squeezing the non-roster Herrera onto the 40-man.

Much depends on Sellers’ health, Gordon’s play, and whether this club can actually get through a full week without having to deal with another injury. But there’s always a bright side: the more healthy players you have, the less chance of having to see Aaron Miles again.