LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers think highly of shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena, enough to sign him to a five-year $25 million contract essentially on defense alone, hoping his bat would eventually develop. He has already made his major league debut, and even started four games at shortstop when Hanley Ramirez dealt with a lower leg injury.
But now Arruebarrena, 24, finds himself sitting on the Dodgers bench, just 2½ months after entering the country, rather than playing every day in the minor leagues.
"You have to think about his development also as a player," manager Don Mattingly said Sunday. "We feel like this guy is going to be a big league player and a big league shortstop. You just can't leave him sitting here."
That was Mattingly's answer to a question of whether or not Arruebarrena would remain on the major league roster once Juan Uribe returns from the disabled list, the latter a proposition that at least a week away, maybe more, as the Dodgers play it cautious with Uribe's strained hamstring.
But the answer is just as relevant to the question of where Arruebarrena should be playing now, as it is two weeks from now. Arruebarrena hasn't started in six games, and he hasn't played in five, limited only to a two-inning stint as a replacement on defense last Tuesday. To be fair, Arreubarrena almost certainly would have played the final four innings Saturday with a 10-run lead, but he was unavailable with the flu.
The point stands, that Arruebarrena's playing time is nearly nonexistent right now. He has taken ground balls at second base and third base, but Mattingly said he has no plans to start Arruebarrena at those positions; he just wants Arruebarrena ready in case he's needed in an emergency.
Arruebarrena's roster spot is essentially the infielder buried on the bench, a part Carlos Triunfel was born to play. Triunfel is hitting only .208/.253/.264 with Triple-A Albuquerque but has played shortstop, second and third with the Isotopes and could fill in when needed at the frequency we've seen over the last week, at least until Uribe is back.
Major league need for the most part usually trumps minor league development, but if we're at a point where Arruebarrena isn't going to play one has to wonder what he gains by even being on the roster.
"I think a guy can learn here and gain ground just by being around and being able to work with the guys and playing a little bit," Mattingly said. "But at some point he's going to need to keep playing."
Arruebarrena got the call over Triunfel because of his defensive value and the need to give Ramirez a rest at shortstop. That happened, and with Ramirez back playing every day, it's probably time to send Arruebarrena back down to continue his development.