Luis Cruz sticks around, returns to lineup

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Cruz on Monday will make his first start in 10 days and second start in the last 22 days.

The Dodgers had a choice to make on Monday before their game against the Angels. Needing a roster spot to activate Jerry Hairston, the Dodgers could have designated the unproductive Luis Cruz for assignment but instead chose to send down Dee Gordon, who had options.

Now, Cruz will back up Nick Punto at shortstop for the next week or so until Hanley Ramirez returns from the disabled list. Cruz got the start on Monday night at third base against the left-handed C.J. Wilson.

"We're trying to still see if Luis can do some things," manager Don Mattingly said. "We've got a lot of lefties coming up."

Cruz is threatening to join Marlon Anderson, Ronnie Belliard, Mike MacDougal, Juan Rivera, and others as surprise successes brought back by general manager Ned Colletti for an ultimately unsuccessful second go-around. Cruz wasn't nearly as expensive as most of that group, but given the offseason roster planning Cruz's lack of success might be the most costly.

After hitting .297/.322/.431 with 20 doubles and 40 RBI in 78 games for the Dodgers in 2012, Cruz was Plan A at third base for the Dodgers in 2013. Unfortunately there wasn't much of a Plan B other than to hope Scott Rolen said yes, so Cruz at 7-for-73 (.096) has been especially crushing to the offense.

"He has struggled. I know Luis is frustrated,"Mattingly said on Sunday. "He's been working hard."

In addition to Wilson, the Dodgers are scheduled to face southpaws Jason Vargas and Jorge De La Rosa this week. Cruz it appears will get his one last chance to save his roster spot.

Cruz, to his credit, has continued to stay upbeat and put in extra work in the batting cage. It may seem weird to say about someone who has gone 59 games and 197 plate appearances since his last unintentional walk (Aug. 29, 2012), but Cruz has remained patient.

"It's hard for me right now, because I'm having a bad season," Cruz said on Sunday. "The only way we're going to get out of this is work. Just grinding every day, working hard"

Cruz was nearly a candidate for the disabled list when the Dodgers were in Atlanta, with bone spurs in his right elbow. But on Sunday Cruz said he hadn't felt any problems in the elbow for a week.

"It was weird. It happened three years ago. I threw a ball in the ninth inning here and my elbow stuck. I have bone spurs floating around and they just got stuck," Cruz said. "The next day it was sore a little bit but the second day I was fine. I was throwing hard. It felt like a cramp."

Before Monday Cruz had started just once in the Dodgers' past 18 games, and he hadn't played at all since May 17. He has been taking ground balls at shortstop and second base in addition to third base and has even worked out in the outfield, trying to make himself more valuable, to get back in the lineup. He has essentially become 2012 Juan Uribe, who barely played in the final two months of the season.

Uribe has talked to Cruz about their shared experience.

"We always talk," Cruz said. "He always reminds me, 'I went through this. You have to get over this, keep working, keep grinding it, and get a hit."

Game info

Time: 5:10 p.m.

TV: Prime Ticket, Fox Sports West

MLB Gameday

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