I Don't Know Is On Third Base For Dodgers

With Juan Uribe and Jerry Hairston Jr. out, the Dodgers held auditions for their vacant third base job.

Much of the conversation regarding the Dodgers roster after their dual disabled list decisions on Monday focused around Andre Ethier playing center field for a couple games with Matt Kemp out. That discussion is all well and good, but a more troubling situation is brewing at the hot corner.

The Dodgers not only are without Juan Uribe, who was placed on the disabled list Monday with a left wrist injury, but are also without super sub Jerry Hairston Jr., who is on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. Hairston is eligible to come off the disabled list on May 22, but trainer Sue Falsone said over the weekend that Hairston's hamstring strain was closer to a grade two (on a scale of one to three, with three being the worst), so it's not out of the question that it would take Hairston more than the next week to return.

Dodgers third basemen this season have hit .227/.273/.344 as a group, with an OPS (.617) and position-adjusted OPS+ (72; with 100 being average and above 100 being above average) that rank 15th in the National League and 25th in the majors.

Last year, Dodgers third basemen hit .228/.305/.325, with an OPS (.631) and adjusted OPS (80) 13th in the NL and 24th in MLB, so a lack of production at third isn't anything new for the Dodgers.

But for the foreseeable future, the Dodgers will occupy third base with some combination of Adam Kennedy, Justin Sellers, and Elian Herrera. That trio makes it possible for Don Mattingly to say with a straight face about Uribe, "We're a better lineup when he's out there," as the manager said on Monday.

If Kennedy gets the bulk of the starts at third, the bench will on most nights consist of catcher Matt Treanor and the Four 'Topes: Scott Van Slyke, Jerry Sands, Justin Sellers, and Elian Herrera. The cost has been great, with four position players on the disabled list, but Mattingly does like the flexibility offered by the current roster.

"Jerry gives us a little flexibility, a right hand bat, and with Scott that gives us a few more options. Elian can kind of play everywhere, and he's a switch hitter," Mattingly said. "We feel like we have a full boat again."

Center Field

With Kemp on the DL, Bobby Abreu and Tony Gwynn Jr. will get the bulk of the non-Ethier starts in the outfield, with Gwynn in center field. But Mattingly said he doesn't want to wear out Abreu and Gwynn by playing them every day.

"I want to make sure I take care of him. I can't all of a sudden throw him out there day in and day out. I can't really do it to Bobby," Mattingly said. "I have to try and be careful with both of those guys."

Herrera is an option in center on days Gwynn does not start, but Mattingly said he also might use Ethier, not regularly but a couple of times in the two weeks that Kemp is out.

"We've talked about him possibly being out there on some days to get right-handed. Jerry's a good defender, Van Slyke's a good defender," Mattingly said. "Dre played it in college, he played it in the minor leagues. We feel like he could play center a day or so."

Tonight's Pitching Matchup

After opening his season with a pair of gems and just one total walk in his first three starts, Chad Billingsley has struggled of late. He has 13 walks in his last 20 innings over four starts, with a 5.31 ERA (and 17 strikeouts).

Billingsley has allowed 10 doubles, four triples, and six home runs this season - only Ian Kennedy (22) and J.A. Happ (22) have given up more extra-base hits among National League pitching - and his .477 slugging percentage allowed ranks 57th among 64 qualified NL starting pitchers.

Wade Miley began the year in the Diamondbacks' bullpen but since moving into the starting rotation is 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA, with seven walks and 20 strikeouts in 24 innings over four starts. With the left-handed Miley on the mound, I have to figure that one of Van Slyke and Sands, if not both, will start on Tuesday night.

Notes

  • The Dodgers are 49-21 (.700) since August 22, the best record in MLB during that span. It is the best 70-game stretch for the Dodgers since going 50-20 from August 18, 1976 to May 5, 1977.
  • Mike MacDougal, who was released by the Dodgers on Sunday, has signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs, per Doug Padilla of ESPN Chicago.

Game Time: 7:10 p.m.

TV: KCAL

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