Alex Guerrero and the search for playing time

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE -- The Dodgers host the Reds this afternoon and for the fourth straight day Alex Guerrero isn't in the starting lineup. Guerrero planned to remain on the back fields on Thursday to get extra at-bats in a minor league intrasquad game (update: he did not play in an intrasquad game but instead entered the major league game in the eighth inning in reserve) as the club tries to get him ready for the season.

Wherever he might start.

"The thing is, we want to make sure he's getting as much playing time as possible. Right now it's just hard to do over here. His at-bats, from day one, have continued to improve every day," acting manager Tim Wallach said on Thursday. "Also defensively he's getting better by the day, and he just needs to keep getting out there. That's probably the most important thing for him."

It's understandable that the Dodgers might want Guerrero to open the season in the minors, after going roughly a year without playing competitive baseball since his defection from Cuba. He was limited to just 12 games in winter league play because of a tight hamstring, so Guerrero simply needs at-bats to be ready.

The flip side though of sending Guerrero to the minors is figuring out just who on this roster would fill out the bench. It's safe to pencil in Dee Gordon, today's starting second baseman, on the Opening Day roster, whether it's starting at second or on the bench. Assuming Gordon starts at second, the bench locks at this point seem to be Scott Van Slyke, Justin Turner, Mike Baxter (assuming Matt Kemp opens on the disabled list) and a backup catcher (most likely Tim Federowicz).

There's one more spot to fill, and if it's not Guerrero the choices are underwhelming to say the least. Miguel Rojas has done nothing to show he belongs in the major leagues, there is no way the team would promote Joc Pederson without regular playing time available, and a three-catcher active roster does nobody any favors.

So it basically comes down to whether or not the team thinks Chone Figgins has anything left in the tank. After following up two horrid seasons in Seattle with sitting out 2013, Figgins has been okay this spring. He has walked a ton (10 times in 39 plate appearances), but has also hit just .172 (5-for-29). But it's not really about the spring statistics, but rather if the team feels he has enough bat speed to make a difference. Figgins has certainly been given ample opportunity to play his way into a job, and has impressed with his versatility by playing six positions in Cactus League games, including starting in center field today.

I would guess the team is leaning toward keeping Figgins (necessitating two corresponding roster moves, to add both Turner and Figgins on the 40-man roster) and having Guerrero start in the minors. But with four days remaining in camp, it's still up in the air.

"A decision hasn't been made yet," Wallach said about Guerrero. "That's the way we can get him enough at-bats, and we're still looking at him."

Notes

  • Wallach said Josh Beckett, dealing with a sprained thumb, as of now is still scheduled to start on Friday.
  • Zack Greinke came out of his start on Wednesday with his right calf feeling fine on Thursday morning.
  • Seth Rosin is expected to follow Paul Maholm on the mound today, as is Red Patterson, up from minor league camp.
  • Also up from the minor league side for the Dodgers today are LHP Fu-Te Ni (No. 83), RHP Juan Gonzalez (94), C Kyle Farmer (92), INF Darnell Sweeney (84), INF Ozzie Martinez (87), INF Daniel Mayora (88), INF Jamie Romak (90), OF Jon Garcia (89), OF Trayvon Robinson (91) and OF Aaron Bates (95).
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