Juan Uribe is scheduled to be activated off the disabled list today or tomorrow after missing nearly a month with a sore left wrist, and despite my well-known feelings about how awful he is, I’m not actually dreading his return as much as you’d think. (Though I do look forward to resuming my ongoing game, “Will Juan Uribe hit more homers than millions of dollars the Dodgers pay him?” With his contract almost half-finished, his five homers as a Dodger still put him 16 behind the $21 million he’ll receive.)
It’s not that Uribe is really the answer to anyone’s problem, of course, since in parts of two injury-riddled seasons as a Dodger he’s hit just .214/.273/.303. But he’s at least been a surprisingly solid defensive third baseman, and as much as we’ve enjoyed the shocking performances of Elian Herrera & Jerry Hairston between second & third so far, it’s hard to expect that they’re both going to continue playing like this every day. It’s an easy argument to be made that they’re both best utilized as multi-positional utlity men than as every day starters, and adding Uribe allows Don Mattingly that flexibility. (I’m also doing my best to fool myself into believing that Uribe can’t possibly be this bad at the plate, and that his struggles have mainly been due to injuries. Look, something shiny! Ooh, a kitten!)
It also allows the team to play with something of a fuller roster, since they’ve basically been going with 23 men as Mattingly has been reluctant to play either Alex Castellanos or Ivan De Jesus. It remains to be seen which of them goes down – I had long thought it would be De Jesus, because his already limited role would be nonexistent with another infielder returning, yet Ken Gurnick suggests it may be Castellanos so he can resume his second base studies in Albuquerque – but either way, now you’ve extended that depth just a little bit more. Instead of having a bench consisting of two rookies, the backup catcher, whichever of Juan Rivera/Bobby Abreu/James Loney isn’t in the lineup between LF/1B, and, sigh, Adam Kennedy, you’ll now add Hairston or Herrera or Uribe, each of whom can in theory play multiple positions, in place of one of the rookies. Or you’ll have Tony Gwynn, since Herrera could and probably should be allowed to help out in center field until Matt Kemp returns. (And in Kennedy’s case, you can at least hope that Uribe’s return means that there’s just a few less starts for him to soak up at second and third.)
This isn’t to say that I’m really looking forward to Uribe eating up playing time that had been going to Herrera or Hairston, because each has been playing extremely well. While I know that he’s going to get the bulk of playing time at third base initially, I really hope that when and if Uribe fails again Mattingly won’t hesitate to pull the trigger and nail him to the bench. Until then, I’m doing my best to look on any sort of bright side here, and the idea that Uribe can bring some defense and allow Herrera & Hairston to both get a breather and be available to play all over the diamond could potentially be a nice touch.
Or he could be absolutely awful and get DFA’d by the All-Star Break. Honestly, it’s a 50/50 bet.