The Dodgers' solution to filling the void left after shortstop Hanley Ramirez had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb might not be a foregone conclusion. Rather than move third baseman Luis Cruz from third base to shortstop with Ramirez out, the Dodgers are instead considering having Justin Sellers at shortstop.
"I'm looking for the best defensive club I can put out there. That's the main thing," Mattingly said. "We have a pretty good pitching staff, and I want us to catch the ball for these guys."
Sellers was optioned to minor league camp on Mar. 19. He did play in one Cactus League game after that, on getaway day Wednesday in Peoria, and he started at shortstop on Thursday night in Anaheim. Sellers, who went 1-for-3 with a walk in the Dodgers' 3-0 victory over the Angels, has hit .204/.283/.323 in 55 games over the last two seasons with the Dodgers.
He made the opening day roster in 2012 as well on the strength of his defense, but a back injury suffered while making a diving catch into the seats prematurely ended his season. Sellers didn't play after May 22, and ultimately had surgery on his lower back in August.
"Sells does the one thing that we know he does. He catches the baseball. He just does," Mattingly said. "He's just one of those guys who can catch it."
The plan to move Cruz to shortstop would open up third base for a trio of Jerry Hairston Jr., Juan Uribe, and Nick Punto. That plan seemed solidified when shortstop Dee Gordon was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on Tuesday, leaving no other viable option in major league camp. Both Nick Punto and Elian Herrera aren't viewed as true shortstops other than on a very short-term basis, nor is non-roster invitee Alfredo Amezaga, also vying for the final position player spot on the roster.
"If Alfredo were to make this club it would be more as utility, being able to play everywhere. It's kind of the same thing with Nick. We feel like his true value is playing all over," Mattingly said. "Luis is really kind of the steadiest guy we have."
But at the same time, Mattingly isn't concerned about moving Cruz from third base to shortstop then back to third once Ramirez returns.
"I'm not really worried about moving Luis around, because he's done that his whole career. He's a guy that takes ground balls all over the place, at second, at short, at third," Mattingly said. "He's not one of those guys I worry about moving. It seems like everywhere he goes he's fine."
Since it would be within 20 days of the date of his optional assignment, Sellers' Mar. 19 option would essentially disappear as if it never happened, were he to make the club. Opening day rosters are due on Sunday afternoon.