One of the benefits of having both the best record (22-11) and largest division lead (six games) in baseball that the Dodgers have is the ability to have patience, or be stubborn if you prefer, on things that aren't quite working out so well. Dee Gordon is hitting just .211/.250/.273 this season and is currently in an 0-for-14 slump.
Gordon is sitting on Sunday against the Rockies, the fifth time in 34 games he has not started. He's just getting a day of rest, manager Don Mattingly said, but the question is should Gordon and his .250 on-base percentage continue to hit leadoff when he is in the lineup? Mattingly feels like he doesn't have any other options.
"Dropping Dee in the order sounds really easy, but who do I hit there? I really don't have a leadoff guy," Mattingly said.
I asked about catcher A.J. Ellis, the regular eighth place hitter but hitting sixth in today's house money lineup, who has a .455 OBP this season and a .388 OBP in 345 major league plate appearances. Mattingly likes Ellis hitting lower in the order, to help lengthen the lineup.
"It's kind of what we talked about last year with Jamey Carroll, where A.J. is hitting, when he's hitting eighth," Mattingly said. "The amount of times we get to that pitcher and flip the lineup over is important also."
What about Ellis hitting leadoff?
"One year the guys in New York were telling me we should lead off Giambi, because his on-base was so high," Mattingly said. "That doesn't make any sense to me."
To be fair to Mattingly, he said he would consider Ellis as a number two hitter, which represents progress from spring training. Though Mattingly would rather not move Mark Ellis, and prefers speed in the leadoff position. Speed is nice, but nobody keeps track of the speed of somebody heading back to the dugout after making another out. Ellis seems almost allergic to outs.
In the end, Mattingly would prefer to keep his lineup as is, with minimal changes in the order. Which means Gordon needs to improve, something Mattingly is still confident will happen.
As much as anything, Dee kind of needs to be that guy. I know we can't force a square peg into a round hole, but we have been able to sustain so far without Dee getting going, and being the guy we saw late in the year last year that we think will be successful," Mattingly said. "We still think that's going to happen, and we need to keep nurturing and keep talking to Dee to try and find that."
Mattingly said when Jerry Hairston Jr. returns from the disabled list, he is comfortable putting him at shortstop for short burts, but if they needed to replace Gordon for a longer term then Justin Sellers would get the call.
But for now, the Dodgers will sink or swim with Gordon at shortstop, batting leadoff. Their good start has given them the luxury to do so.
Game Time: 1:10 p.m.
TV: Prime Ticket