Let’s Shake Up That Roster

Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times has some news on roster changes that are about to happen… and they feel a little familiar.

MSTI, July 28th:

But it’s also time to add some new blood to third base, and I’m not talking about Mark Loretta. Remember Tony Abreu? Not only is he not dead, he’s tearing up the PCL (1.026 OPS!) and is particularly on a hot streak lately (.475 BA with 3 homers in his last 10 games). Injuries almost ruined his career, but don’t forget that we looked upon him as a huge part of the future at one point.

Why not give the old man a breather once or twice a week – which might also help his second half slide – while playing the hot hand in Abreu?

Hernandez, today:

Infielder Tony Abreu is expected to be called up today from triple-A Albuquerque

abreujumps.jpgHey! That’s a great idea – wish I’d thought of it. Seriously, though, this can only help the team. Casey Blake has turned it around a bit lately (1.167 OPS over his last 8 games, though he still hasn’t homered in over a month), but he’s had a rough second half, and Orlando Hudson is coming off two lousy months of June and July. When you’ve got a guy like Abreu – and remember, talent has never been the issue with him, it’s health – tearing up AAA, you can’t help but want to see him in the bigs. Remember, Hudson isn’t signed for next year, and if he doesn’t turn it around, you wonder if they let him walk and see if Abreu can handle second base.

Moving on, after Hernandez also adds that Ronald Belisario’s return is imminent, we have news on the 5th spot in the rotation. Hmmm…

MSTI, August 6 (and about a dozen other times):

It’s not like there’s not other options; I detailed how great of an idea Charlie Haeger would be the other day, and we’ve been calling for Eric Stults – who’s only thrown a complete-game MLB shutout in each of the last two years! – all season.

Hernandez, today:

Eric Stults was pulled from his start in Albuquerque on Thursday night after only three innings, a sign that he could be promoted to replace Jason Schmidt as the Dodgers’ starter in San Francisco on Monday. Stults, who was in the rotation until a sprained thumb landed him on the disabled list on May 31, bumped fists with teammates and waved at Albuquerque Manager Tim Wallach as he exited the game.

Yes! Yeeesss! Please let this be true. There’s no way that Stults isn’t going to be more effective than Schmidt right now – none. I also wonder if part of this is to avoid the embarrassment of Schmidt having to go back to his former stomping grounds of SF and having him get lit up in front of all his old fans. There’s also the question about what happens to him. Does he get sent to the bullpen? DFA’d? Placed back on the DL? Does he simply walk away?

In fact, if we’re adding three players – Abreu, Belisario, and Stults – there’s quite a few roster decisions that need to be made. Since the usual option (send down Blake DeWitt!) has already been exhausted, I’m going to take a guess at what happens with no inside information whatsoever:

1) Schmidt gets moved off the 25-man roster for Stults. I doubt he hangs them up, and he’s clearly not one of the best 12 (okay, 20) pitchers right now, so the bullpen’s not the right option. I’ll go with a 90% chance of DL with a 10% chance of DFA. 

2) Scott Elbert gets sent down to AAA to make room for Belisario. Elbert’s been very good in short bursts, but I can’t help thinking that his future is still as a starter, so he might be able to step into Stults’ rotation spot with the Isotopes to get some longer outings.

3) James McDonald gets sent down to AAA to make room for Abreu. To be honest, this was the hardest call, and I’m not sure I’m convinced they’d drop down to 12 pitchers, but unless there’s a DL stint coming for a position player I don’t know about, there’s no obvious choice to drop. Juan Castro’s the only even slight possibility, and he’s been very good as a caddy for Rafael Furcal, so I don’t see it.

Of course, now that I’ve made these three predictions, expect exactly zero them to happen.

Casey Blake’s Turning Back Into a Pumpkin

I can’t say this is a surprise, because we’ve said this was going to happen more than once around here, but it looks like the inevitable is happening: the patented Casey Blake Second Half Slide. Blake’s been a notorious first half player over his career, losing over 50 points of OPS in the second half, but still: I’d held out just a bit of hope based on how well he played when Manny was gone. As I said on May 27th,

That’s besides the point, though, because Blake has really been a life-saver at the best possible time. I won’t even get on him for his inevitable second half slide (.813 career first-half OPS vs. .760 second-half OPS) because by that point, Manny will be back and you like to think that Ethier, Furcal, & the rest will have gotten going. We needed Casey Blake right now, and he’s done nothing but step up.

Unfortunately, we’ve now reached “second half slides-ville”, as he’s got just 7 hits in the last two weeks and is at just .225/.349/.338 with only 1 homer in the last month. It actually gets worse the further back you go, because since he hit his season high of OPS (.956) on May 26th, he’s spent the last two months being, well, lousy: .243/.333/.358 over the last two months, and just 3 homers.

I’m not here to pound on him, because he stepped up hugely when Manny was suspended, and it’s not like this isn’t a big feature of the Casey Blake package: it’s just what he does. Nor am I suggesting that we flat-out bench him, or try to acquire someone else via trade.

abreujumps.jpgNo, what the Dodgers ought to do is leverage the assets they have available. First of all, it’s time to platoon Blake a bit – he’s got a huge split, as he’s killing lefties (1.072 OPS) while struggling a bit against righties (.740 OPS). But it’s also time to add some new blood to third base, and I’m not talking about Mark Loretta. Remember Tony Abreu? Not only is he not dead, he’s tearing up the PCL (1.026 OPS!) and is particularly on a hot streak lately (.475 BA with 3 homers in his last 10 games). Injuries almost ruined his career, but don’t forget that we looked upon him as a huge part of the future at one point.

Why not give the old man a breather once or twice a week – which might also help his second half slide – while playing the hot hand in Abreu?

MSTI’s First Half Review: Offense

Is it that time of the year already? Sure, it’s not really “halfway” through the year since the Blue have already played 95 games, but here we are at the All-Star break. This won’t be as extensive as last year’s season reviews, since there’s only three days to do it in, but it still will touch upon everyone who appeared in a game for the Dodgers this year. So today is offense, tomorrow pitching, and the next day will be front office/coaching staff/awards/overall grade. And on Thursday, a big MSTI announcement. How did we do this last year? That’s right:

First, some quick ground rules. Completely unscientific and arbitrary, this is how we’ve seen the results of the season. One important distinction, is that the letter grade is based upon what we reasonably could have expected of the player entering the year, not comparing him to other MLB players at his position. You’ll soon see why this is so important.

Less than 10 IP or 100 at-bats gets you an “incomplete”. Stats are presented (BA/OBP/SLG).

We’ll knock that down to 50 at-bats for the half-season review, but everything else remains the same.

Catcher
Russell Martin (.294/.394/.436 10hr 45rbi) (A+)
Without question, the best offensive player so far. There were actually some inane stories out there that I won’t even subject you to linking to saying that he’s been off his game this year, but that’s mostly thanks to his very slow start to the season, hitting .197 as late as April 20th. But you know what? Martin’s actually having the best offensive year of his career overall. His 118 OPS+ is up 5 from last year, and while his slugging % is down slightly (.029 less than last year), it’s more than made up by his exemplary .394 OBP, which is actually better than Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton, and Hanley Ramirez. Plus, he plays third base! What can I say? This guy’s the heart and soul of the team. He’s the best player, and he never complains. Love this guy. Love him.

Gary Bennett (.190/.261/.381 1hr 4rbi) (incomplete)
What a weird, weird season for the initial 2008 recipient of the Mike Lieberthal Memorial “Guy Who Rots on the Bench Behind Russell Martin” Award. Bennett only really got notice in two of my posts all season, and they couldn’t be more divergent – first, he got some recognition for a good game in Milwaukee on May 15, and then just five days later we cheered his being placed on the DL, saying,

“Left foot plantar fasciitis.” Let me say, the quotes could not be thicker around that. We’ve had no word of any injury problems surrounding Bennett, but tons of stories about his throwing problems, and suddenly his foot hurts? Hey, call it a bad foot, the flu, or the heebie-jeebies; whatever it takes to get this guy’s head right and get those lollipop throws off the field. Seriously, he even made Rotoworld today, which is rare for a mediocre backup catcher, and at no point is the foot mentioned.

Thanks for showing up, Gary. Lousy hitter who can’t throw – fantastic. If you wanted to hit the slots in Vegas the rest of the summer, that’d be A-ok by me.

Danny Ardoin (.211/.250/.263 0hr 2rbi) (incomplete)
Another member of the Loyal Order of Backup Catchers, Ardoin’s been.. well, he’s an improvement on Bennett, anyway. He’s not much of a hitter either, but everything I’ve read about him says that the pitchers like throwing to him way better than Bennett. As far as I’m concerned, the team is screwed if Martin’s hurt anyway, so it doesn’t really matter all that much which one backs him up, but I’d really like it if it would be Ardoin rather than Bennett, whenever he’s healthy. Amazingly enough, Ardoin’s already doubled Mike Lieberthal’s RBI total from last season.

First Base
James Loney (.291/.351/.446 7hr 50rbi) (C+)
Loney gets a C+ not because he’s been that lousy, but simply because we had such high expectations for him. After last year’s offensive explosion in the second half, who among us wasn’t drooling at the prospect of him playing 1B for the entire season? But after the first two months, he was only hitting in the .270s with 5 homers. Of course, he dominated in June (.362/.425/.500), only to fall back in July, hitting just .224 so far. He’s been.. okay. Not bad, not great. I still think he’s got it in him to pick it up.

Second Base
Jeff Kent (.253/.304/.407 9hr 40rbi) (C-)
This, I must say, was a tough one. On one hand, he was really bad for a good portion of the season – I assume you haven’t forgotten the whole chase to be the worst cleanup hitter of the last 50 years, but on the other hand, Kent’s 40 years old, and how much can you ever depend on a guy that age, anyway? At least he’s been able to stay relatively healthy, and his bat has turned it around a bit lately.

On the plus side, no one’s accusing Kent of being involved in any clubhouse fiascos so far, so at least he’s got that going for him. 

Third Base
Blake DeWitt (.263/.330/.372 5hr 34rbi) (A)
Just like Kent, this is a tough grade to assign. I know it seems like a long time ago now, but do you remember how desperate this team was at the hot corner at the end of March? Nomar was hurt, LaRoche was hurt, Abreu was hurt, and the trade options were either unavailable or unappealing. So we turn over the job to the guy who was guaranteed to put up Hu-like offensive numbers. Except that.. he was good. Really good, slugging .517 in May. He was a lock for Rookie of the Year and surprise of the year. Go Blake!

Of course, great story aside, he’s cratered since then, with just 4 extra base hits in the last 6 weeks, which is Pierre-like levels of mediocrity. Ah hell, it doesn’t matter. He shouldn’t be starting every day anymore, but that’s a topic we’ve already covered. He gets an A simply because I shudder to think what would have happened if he hadn’t held things down for the first two months.

Andy LaRoche (.192/.294/.341 2hr 3rbi) (incomplete)
Seems like LaRoche is shaping up to be part of the next Dodgers holy war, following in the footsteps of Juan Pierre and Hee-Seop Choi. No, he hasn’t done much in the bigs. But the people who want to write him off are insane – he’s gotten just 44 at-bats this year. Look, he’s got nothing more to prove in the minors (career .895 OPS). The Dodgers need power. Blake DeWitt is slumping badly. So then why can’t LaRoche ever start more than two games in a row? Why has he been benched the day after hitting a home run both times? Some things, I’ll never understand.

Shortstop
Rafael Furcal (.366/.448/.597 5hr 16rbi) (R)
That’s right, I gave Furcal an “R”. Why? Because the best way I can sum up his 2008 is “ARRRRRRRGGGHH!!!!” From the best start of his career, to an injury that was to keep him out a few days, to surgery that will end with him missing 4 months. Despite everything that’s gone wrong with this season, it’s hard to point to anything that was more damaging than this. Furcal’s back woes not only cost the team its hottest hitter, but lead to the failings of Hu, the misery of Angel Berroa, and the so-far entertaining Nomar era. Think about it, the Dodgers are one game out. It’s not much of a stretch to say that if Furcal had stayed healthy, the Dodgers are in first place, is it?

Angel Berroa
(.192/.253/.219 0hr 0rbi) (F)
I have to say, of all the stats I looked up for this article, Berroa surprised me more than anybody. He really has zero RBI? Not even one? Despite starting 21 games? That would be incredible, if it weren’t so depressing. Look at it this way, Berroa’s had 72 at-bats without an RBI. That’s the most in MLB by a large margin, nearly double the 40 at-bats by Washington’s Roger Bernadina. Yikes! Actually, now that I think about it, maybe Berroa doesn’t deserve an F here. Maybe he should be getting a C. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t all know he was going to suck from day one. And to the surprise of no one except perhaps Ned Colletti, he has. He’s been exactly as bad as we thought, not that it was possible to be any worse, so in that sense he’s been the average Angel Berroa.

Nah, forget it. Big. Fat. F.

Chin-Lung Hu
(.159/.224/.206 0hr 7rbi) (D)
This really should be an F, because Hu’s utter failure to perform once Furcal went down has to rank as one of the bigger disappointments of the season. The only thing bumping him up to a D is the fact that his defense more than lived up to its sparking reputation. But I don’t think it was too much to expect that he had a shot to be a decent hitter, since after a breakthrough 2007 where he OPS’d .871 in the minors, he popped 2 dingers in 29 late-season at-bats in the bigs. And then.. fizzle. Now, he’s apparently had some vision issues since returning to AAA, so if that’s what caused this, I haven’t completely given up on him. It’s just that if he could have been even a mediocre hitter, we could have kept his slick glove in the lineup and avoided the entire Berroa fiasco.

Infield
Nomar Garciaparra (.250/.328/.400 2hr 12rbi) (!!!)
What a year for Nomahhh. Breaks his hand in spring training, comes back to play in all of 8 games (hitting .226) before hurting his calf and missing two more months.. only to return at shortstop. You can’t make this stuff up. In fact, I wish I had predicted this in the offseason, just so I could see what kind of responses I’d have gotten saying that I’d completely lost my mind. Remember last year when Nomar couldn’t be moved from 1B to 3B to make room for Loney because he was “too fragile”? Well, a year and several injuries later, now he’s playing shortstop. Unbelievable. He’s hit okay since coming back (.286/.333/.500 in 8 games), but there’s just no way this doesn’t end with him somehow spontaneously combusting turning a double play, right?

Luis Maza
(.228/.282/.278 1hr 4rbi) (C… ish)
Remember, we’re doing these grades based not on how they compare to the rest of the league, but based on how a player has performed based on reasonable expectations at the beginning of the season. This is why Hu gets a D, since he was below expectations, and why DeWitt gets an A, since he was so far above. The only time this method runs into a problem is in the case of Luis Maza, because for someone who runs a Dodgers blog and likes to think he knows entirely too much about the Dodger organization.. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard of this guy coming into the season. So it’s hard to say I had any expectations of him. That said, he’s been pretty much what you’d think he’d be – a quad-A player who’s a mediocre hitter and a decent fielder, albeit with a particularly lousy arm.

Mark Sweeney
(.094/.181/.125 0hr 3rbi) (?)
Sweeney gets a question mark for a grade. That’s partially because he doesn’t even deserve to attain a letter, but mostly to represent the question of, Why is Mark Sweeney on This Team? He serves no function. He’s a pinch-hitter who can’t hit. He can’t hit lefties. He can’t hit righties. He can’t hit at home. He can’t hit on the road. He can’t hit during the day. He can’t hit at night. We do not like him here or there, we do not like him anywhere.  His OPS is negative 18, which I believe means he’s lapsed into some sort of an unknown dimension. He’s 38 years old, and he’s got 6 hits in 72 at-bats! It’s the end of the line, and it’s just stubbornness on the part of the Dodgers front office that they allow him to keep making outs (he’s supposedly coming off the DL on Friday). I would love to know what kind of pictures Sweeney must have of Colletti with a lampshade on his head in order to keep his job.

Time to go, Mark. Time to go.

Terry Tiffee
(.250/.400/.250 0hr 0rbi) (incomplete)
Tiffee only went 1-4 in his short time up, but I’ve been backing him for over two months. Now back at Vegas, he’s kept up his amazing season, currently rocking a .396/.434/.598 line. Sure, say it’s a fluke, say whatever you like. Maybe you’re right. But there is simply no argument you can use to convince me that he shouldn’t be taking Mark Sweeney’s place. None. Tiffee is more useful than Sweeney in every conceivable way – hitting, fielding, versatility, you name it. (And I did, right here.) I suppose I’m venturing more into Colletti territory than Tiffee, but really, all Tiffee’s done is hit all year long. What else does he have to do?

Tony Abreu (n/a) (incomplete)
Knock, knock.”
“Hello?”
“Is this Mr. Abreu?”
“Yes, who are you?”
“I’m opportunity. And I’m knocking.”
“Hmm.. thanks, but no thanks. Bye!”

Outfield
Matt Kemp (.278/.331/.437 9hr 49rbi 20sb) (B)
We’ve exhausted a lot of pixels on Kemp around here lately, so I won’t revisit it all again. But suffice it to say, there’s been nothing boring about Kemp’s season. To wild trade rumors to arguments about what type of player he is and will be, Kemp’s been front and center. As you probably know, considering his age and inexperience, I’m pretty satisfied with what he’s done, especially his improvement in the outfield. The strikeouts have to be cut, of course, but remember that he’s only 23. Guys like Matt Holliday and Ryan Howard hadn’t even made their debuts by 23, instead being allowed to develop in the minors. Considering Kemp’s already been (roughly) an average MLBer at that age, let’s cut the kid a little slack, okay?

Andre Ethier (.286/.350/.464 11hr 41rbi) (A-)
Don’t look now, but Ethier is leading the entire team in homers and slugging %. That’s pretty impressive for a guy who’s been continually jerked around in terms of playing time when both Jones and Pierre were available. He gets a bit of a demerit for that .195 June, but he’s come roaring back in July with a 1.061 OPS. So of course, we can look forward to him seeing some bench in two weeks when Pierre returns. Because that’s what a team who can’t hit should do – bench their biggest power hitter. Amazing.

Juan Pierre (.277/.327/.318 0hr 24rbi 35sb) (D)
This isn’t the place to rehash the whole Pierre argument yet again, but it’s pretty simple, as far as I’m concerned. He’s having the worst season of his career by every single offensive stat (save steals), which is saying a lot when it’s the fourth straight season he’s declined since his career year of 2004. Regardless of how you feel about him, he’s not even living up to his own mediocre standards. That’s not good, and I can’t imagine it’ll be any better if his knee is any less than 100% when he comes back. Yet Joe Torre is infatuated with him, but I guess that’s something more to discuss in Torre’s review. Of 19 MLB leftfielders with enough at-bats to qualify, Pierre is dead last in OPS, coming in nearly 340 points lower than leader Matt Holliday’s. That’s not just bad, that’s really bad.

By the way, in that “career year”, his OPS+ was 107 (it’s down to 69 this year). Andre Ethier’s this season is 110. Just sayin’.

Andruw Jones (.167/.261/.253 2hr 9rbi) (you don’t even deserve a letter, Andruw)
What. A. Disaster. Hey, we’re not always right at MSTI either, because we both supported this deal when it was signed. But geez. I can’t even get on Colletti for this one, because really, who the hell saw this happening? If you didn’t see this link the other day, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark says Jones is on pace for the Worst Offensive Season in Baseball History.

You know what, I can’t even talk about him. You don’t need stats on this one. You have eyes. You’ve watched the Dodgers. He’s awful, and no one seems to know why. What a mess.

Delwyn Young (.255/.327/.343 1hr 5rbi) (C-)
Have to admit, I’m a little torn on Delwyn. We’ve been big fans of his for a while, because on a team that’s struggling so badly offensively, a guy who’s done nothing but kill the ball at every stop would seem like a useful player to have. I mean, it was just last season that he broke a 41-year-old PCL record for doubles. That said, he hasn’t really done all that much with the big club this season. Oddly enough, his stats are the exact opposite of what I had thought; I was all set to say “but he doesn’t get to play that much with the OF logjam, and its hard for a kid to be a pinch-hitter”. Except that as it turns out, he’s hitting .342 off the bench vs. only .203 as a starter.

Jason Repko (.000/.000/.000 0hr 0rbi) (incomplete)
Oh, Jason. Poor Jason. Just can’t catch a break. You come up and go 0-5 with 4 K’s in your first game, and then get all of two more at-bats before getting sent down, probably for good. Damn shame, really.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Furcal for MVP! Plus, Nomar’s Back…

After getting shut out on Sunday by San Diego, and kicked in the stomach by Pittsburgh on Monday, how welcome was last night’s romp? Matt Kemp – who as you may or may not have noticed, I have advocated allowing to play – scored three times. James Loney has now hit in every game this year (that’s 14 in a row, longest to start a season for LA since Steve Garvey in 1978. I believe “14 in a row in 1978″ was also Steve’s record for stewardesses, but we’ll save that for another time). Russell Martin finally gets something going with his first home run of the year, and even Andruw Jones showed some life with two hits. And what can you say about Rafael Furcal after a 2-5, 2 RBI night that pushes his average up to .364? Well, there’s this:

2008 MLB Leaders in VORP:
1. Rafael Furcal SS LAD 11.5
2. Hanley Ramirez SS FLO 11.4
3. Nate McLouth OF PIT 11.1
4. Pat Burrell OF PHI 10.9
5. Albert Pujols 1B STL 10.8

Is it too early to start the “Rafael for MVP” chant? For tonight’s game, Andre Ethier is going to sit in favor of Juan Pierre, according to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times, but since Ethier has yet to sit even once this year, I can’t get too worked up about that.

But here’s where things may get interesting. We have Nomar news, also from Hernandez:

Back in Los Angeles from a minor league rehabilitation assignment, Nomar Garciaparra is set to be activated in time for a five-game trip that begins Friday in Atlanta.

“You have steps throughout the whole process to get back and I’ve taken every step,” Garciaparra said. “Now, it’s go out there and play.”

Great! I’ve been more than thrilled with Blake DeWitt, but since the team obviously doesn’t view Chin-Lung Hu as more than an emergency option at 3B, DeWitt has played every single inning at the hot corner thus far. Think about that for a second – there is no Dodger who has played more this season than Blake DeWitt, other than James Loney, who has also played every single inning at his position. Mind-blowing. Anyway, I think this team could use the infield depth, not only to have another viable 3B option, but also because Loney can’t play every inning all year either, and Torre has already said he’d prefer not to start Mark Sweeney and lose his bat off the bench, going so far as to have Ethier take grounders at 1B in practice. I don’t think any of us want to see that experiment, so Nomar will come up, hopefully get some time at both corners (I’m thinking, two starts a week at 3B and one at 1B?), and keep everyone happy and healthy. Right?

Garciaparra said his preference would be to play “every single day.”

Oh. I suppose I can’t blame him for saying that; would you really want a guy who admits he doesn’t want to play every day? The thing is, DeWitt’s actually been surprisingly good. DodgerThoughts does a good job of breaking down the supposed “success” of DeWitt this year vs. the supposed “failure” of Andy LaRoche last season – although I might add, it seemed to me that most of the people who considered LaRoche’s debut to be poor were those who only look at batting average as an evaluation tool.

As for the corresponding roster move, Tony Jackson, on his blog, says:

And although I have been hinting that DeWitt is going back to the minors when Nomar comes off the DL, it now looks like they are at least considering keeping him and cutting back to 11 pitchers temporarily. That would almost certainly mean Ramon Troncoso is the odd man out.

Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t that the only possible move? There’s no way you can send down DeWitt just yet. Even if Nomar is handed the everyday third base job, which I can’t imagine happening right off the bat, the Dodgers obviously have no other third base solutions. There’s simply no way you can count on the fragile Nomar to play every single inning. With Tony Abreu suffering yet another setback (is it possible he’s going to make Nomar look like an ironman?) and Andy LaRoche just about to start his rehab assignment, DeWitt can’t possibly go anywhere. If he’s sent down, he has to stay down for ten days, and that’s a scary proposition to have to count on Nomar to be able to handle all of that immediately. It’s not that any of this is groundbreaking; I’m just surprised that Jackson would even consider that DeWitt gets sent down until LaRoche or Abreu are available.

Also, Joe Torre has an Iphone? I don’t know why that thought entertains me so much.

Finally, just to throw fuel on the fire, take it away, Buster Olney!

Nomar Garciaparra has rejoined the Dodgers, but if he doesn’t play regularly — and he says within this piece that he wants to play every single day — you wonder how long this situation will last. Blake DeWitt has done a nice job at third base, and you wonder if it would be best all for all involved for the Dodgers to cut ties with Garciaparra and move on.

Buster, I still don’t really have a problem with Nomar saying that – that’s what he has to say. Besides, this team is in absolutely no position to start dumping third basemen. Plus, as much as I like to be objective and focus on the stats, cutting Nomar would be a pretty big PR hit for a team that doesn’t need any right now. Here’s what I’d do when the injured start returning:

1. Nomar comes off the DL, Troncoso goes down. Nomar gets two starts a week at 3B and is available to give Loney a breather at 1B.
2. LaRoche comes off the DL, DeWitt goes down. DeWitt gets to play every day in the minors, which he wouldn’t with both LaRoche and Nomar around. LaRoche gets the majority of starts at 3B, Nomar available to spell both infield corners.
3. Abreu comes off the DL (assuming this ever happens), Hu goes down. Abreu’s now your middle infield backup, and Hu gets to play every day in AAA, which, considering how high I am on him, is very important, as I think he might be stagnating a little sitting on the bench every day in the bigs.
4. To get back to 12 pitchers: cut Mark Sweeney. I know, I know: Torre loves his veteran bat off the bench. Well, guess what? Sweeney has 1 hit in 10 pinch-hitting at-bats. He’s yet to touch his glove. Dump Sweeney, and make Nomar the new Big Sexy.

Of course, since this is what I’m proposing, none of it will actually happen.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

This Keeps Getting Better and Better

025-01054fd.jpgSince I last discussed the increasingly bizarre infield situation, things had seemed to clear up a little bit. Tony Abreu, who’s been playing more and looking good this week, would start at 3B, and Chin-Lung Hu would fill in at 2B for a few days until Jeff Kent was ready. Not the optimal situation, but these guys would be starters on plenty of teams, so to have them be our last resorts isn’t the end of the world.

All is well. What? 

Tony Jackson, fill us in:

Tony Abreu to begin the season on the DL

He felt something in his right groin after one of his at-bats against the Brewers on Tuesday. The move can be backdated to Wednesday, which means he won’t be eligible to play until April 11 against the Padres. Not sure what it means for third base except that Blake DeWitt now might actually, truly be a candidate for the opening-day roster. That would mean a whole lot of other things, too, mostly that his calendar would be moved up a year so that he would run out of options a year earlier, would become eligible for arbitration a year earlier, etc., because as of right now, he doesn’t even have to be added to the 40-man roster until next winter. If he is added to the opening-day roster, all of that changes. If you assume Rudy Seanez was released to make room on the 40-man for Chan Ho Park, then this probably means another spot will have to be cleared to make room for DeWitt.

Ugh. This is simply unbelievable – who loses the top three on their depth chart in one position in one spring training? How many times can I keep making Spinal Tap drummer jokes? Now paging Esteban German… but not Inge, Crede, Giles, or Helms.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg