Three years ago (!), I wrote a post titled “Casey Blake, Backup Shortstop?“, based on a mention from the long-lost Tony Jackson that Blake (along with Jamey Carroll) might be an option to fill in at shortstop
if when Rafael Furcal was injured. Furcal, of course, did get hurt, Carroll spent most of his time playing short, and Blake never once saw time there.
I’m a day behind on this because I was out of town for the last few days, but that’s the first thing that came to mind when I saw this nugget from Bill Plunkett of the OC Register:
With no obvious backup first baseman behind Gonzalez, Mattingly said utilitymen Jerry Hairston Jr. and Juan Uribe would work at the position this spring. Uribe has never played there as a professional. Hairston has made two brief appearances there in the majors.
While the idea of Uribe ever starting a game at first base — which is, you know, only the position that demands the highest level of offensive production and a waste of Uribe’s only value, his strong throwing arm — might be enough to have us all wistfully mourn for the days of James Loney & Juan Rivera, I’m easily filing this under “camp talk”. For now.
Uribe, as we know, has just about no role on this team any longer. He’s probably not higher than fourth on the depth chart at any of the three positions he usually plays, yet he still exists. Meanwhile, Mattingly literally has no real backup first base option behind Gonzalez, so you pay lip service to fitting a (very) round peg into a square hole. The fact that he’s still around in camp means that I can’t fully believe he won’t be on the roster until the Opening Day list comes out without him on it. But as I’ve said before, I really believe he’s here only to see if Mark McGwire can perform a miracle in six weeks, and when he can’t, Uribe would be jettisoned at the end of camp. (I know, into the sun.)
Hairston, meanwhile, seems like an acceptable — if imperfect — option. Having Skip Schumaker & Nick Punto (and Luis Cruz, if he fails to hang on to a starting gig at third) around behind Mark Ellis makes it likely that he’ll see far less time at second base than he did last year, and so having him give Gonzalez a breather once a month seems like a reasonable solution given the limited choices he has there.
Fortunately, Gonzalez doesn’t have a terrible platoon split, because that last sentence was going to read “a breather against tough lefties,” before I remembered that they need him to help out Carl Crawford & Andre Ethier in that regard, once again getting back to the huge flaw in the roster. Can they just trade an excess starter for Casper Wells or Franklin Gutierrez or Drew Stubbs already and just make this easier on everyone?
”A.J. has played there in the past,” Mattingly said of catcher A.J. Ellis. “But I don’t really like the thought of doing that (with his primary catcher). I really like the thought of Adrian playing 150 games or more over there.”
While I totally agree with the idea of not wanting to put your starting catcher out there at other positions — what, we miss the days of Russell Martin playing third base? — I can’t help but note that Ellis’ previous first base experience consists of single games in the minors in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, & 2011. (And I’m guessing they’re not all starts — while the minor league logs don’t indicate whether he started or not, I imagine you can’t play an entire game at first and manage only a single putout, as he did in 2003 & 2008.)
By the way, five games of experience at first base is exactly the same as he has on the mound, having made it into eight innings over five games for Jacksonville in 2006-07.
Speaking of Ellis, we all remember being surprised to find out that he had undergone a relatively secret knee operation after the season. According to Ken Gurnick earlier this week, Ellis “was injured in a home-plate collision July 18,” and indeed he did not play again until July 22. That said, I went over that game against the Phillies — that was the Clayton Kershaw / Cliff Lee matchup that ended on a Matt Kemp walkoff in the tenth — and there’s nothing close to a collision. All three of the Philadelphia runs scored on two hits, neither of which had Ellis making any contact, and while he reached base twice, he never advanced past second. So either it was less of a “collision” and more of an awkward tweak, or it was a different game entirely. Too bad; I was really hoping to pin that on Shane Victorino, too.
Finally, over at FanGraphs, we’re doing depth chart investigations for every team, and I took the Dodger rotation. This is probably all information that you all know, but since I’ve seen larger sites claiming that every Dodger starting option from Harang to Lilly to Koufax is definitely going to be the #5 starter, it’s probably informative for the larger audience.