The last two weeks have provided quite the contrast for the Dodgers. They reached a low point of their season with a four-game sweep at home at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers, part of a five-game losing streak. But the Dodgers immediately turned things around with a four-game sweep of the Phillies in Philadelphia.
As unexpected as the four-game sweep of the Phillies was, even more unexpected was how the Dodgers did it, or perhaps who did it for the Dodgers. Elian Herrera, the 27-year old utility man who has been with the team for less than four weeks, delivered the game-winning hits in each of the first two games of the series, and reached base in eight of his 19 plate appearances for a .421 on-base percentage.
The highlight of the series came Tuesday against the mighty Cliff Lee, when Herrera's eighth-inning double turned a deficit into a lead and sent the Dodgers on their way:
Herrera has been the most pleasant of surprises for the Dodgers. He has played in 22 of 23 games since getting promoted from Triple A, and has started 18 games, all batting first or second. Herrera has hit .293/.391/.373 for the Dodgers, and has reached base via hit or walk in 16 of his 18 starts.
Is he likely to keep up his .386 batting average on balls in play? No, it would not be fair or wise to expect that continue, but there are encouraging signs. Herrera has 12 walks in 88 plate appearances, a walk rate of 13.6% of his plate appearances that ranks fourth on the Dodgers, behind only Bobby Abreu (17.5%), A.J. Ellis (15.8%), and Matt Kemp (14.6%).
Herrera has started nine games at second base, six games at third base, and three games in center field, only a few games behind the plate from becoming our modern day Derrel Thomas. There have only been a pair of Antonio Alfonseca handfuls of Dodgers to start three games at all three of those positions in the same year, with the last being Jolbert Cabrera in 2003.
In short, Herrera has done everything the Dodgers have asked, and then some.
But when Juan Uribe comes back from the disabled list on Monday, Herrera's playing time figures to diminish. Uribe will start most games at third, and Jerry Hairston Jr. will start most games at second base as manager Don Mattingly "wants to build continuity in the middle of the infield," per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.play
Given Herrera's versatility, combined with the planned rest Mattingly will give Uribe, Hairston, and center fielder Tony Gwynn Jr., there will be opportunities for Herrera to play, just not as often as before.
"I just try to play the same game I was doing in Triple A," Herrera said during the last homestand. "Just have fun and try to do my job, the little things, and try to help my team to win."
Herrera has been doing his job, and doing in quite well. He deserves a chance to continue doing it. But no matter what happens, the Herrera experience has been a hell of a ride to date.