GLENDALE -- Part of the joy of spring training is the birth of a new season and the seemingly boundless optimism of just about everybody that baseball is back. But the dark side can rear its head at any time, and Dodgers infielder Justin Sellers fell victim to the merciless soul crushing of baseball on Saturday.
Sellers was designated for assignment by the club to make room for new Cuban infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena. It means Sellers is removed from the 40-man roster immediately, and the Dodgers have 10 days to decide what to do with him. They could try to trade Sellers, but if that doesn't pan out they need to place him on waivers at some time in the next eight days. If he clears waivers, the Dodgers could outright him to the minors.
But even if the Dodgers retain the services of Sellers and invite him back to big league camp, now as a non-roster invitee, the harsh reality is that in all likelihood he won't be making the team.
Which gives a different, almost sad tone to the optimism Sellers displayed in an interview about 28 hours earlier, on Friday morning (he was unavailable for comment after the transaction on Saturday).
"Anything could happen to anybody at any time. I've just been working hard. Hopefully something can happen for me, whether it's second base or a utility role," Sellers said Friday. "I could play shortstop, third and second and they know. If I just show them that I can handle the bat a little bit, why can't I?"
Sellers hit .199/.278/.301 in parts of three seasons with the Dodgers, and in 89 games in Triple-A Albuquerque in 2013 hit just .270/.326/.429, down from .304/.400/.537 with the Isotopes in 2011. Knowing he needed to improve his hitting for a chance to make the big league club, Sellers worked with hitting coach Mark McGwire over the winter.
"I reached out to let them know I'm trying to get better. I'm 28 years old, it's not like I'm really young, but I'm not too old," Sellers said. "I think I can play this game for a long time, I just have to keep working hard."
Overcoming odds wasn't new to Sellers, who was the regular starter at shortstop in place of the injured Hanley Ramirez for the first four weeks of 2013. He made the Dodgers opening day roster in each of the last two seasons.
"That feeling was incredible, and that's something I won't forget. It's something you build off of and you want that feeling again," Sellers said. "I like that they trust me with my glove, that they have the confidence to put me out there. It means a lot."
Manager Don Mattingly, along with general manager Ned Colletti, delivered the bad news to Sellers on Saturday.
"It was tough on him. Justin was trying really hard. He feels like he worked hard this winter, and wanted to fight for that spot. He knew there were a couple spots open and he felt like he was one of those guys," Mattingly said. "It was not an easy conversation."
What makes it especially tough is that Sellers was cut before the club even played any spring training games, a point normally far too early in camp for such a move. But the business side of baseball often times isn't pretty, and Sellers found out the hard way on Saturday.