LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers welcome the Rockies to town for three games beginning Monday night at Dodger Stadium, a battle of two teams dealing with a hole at third base.
The hot corner has been a position of strength for both Los Angeles and Colorado this season. Dodgers third basemen collectively rank second in the National League with 2.4 wins above replacement (the FanGraphs variety), while the Rockies are fifth at 1.6 fWAR.
The main culprits have been Juan Uribe and El Toro High School's own Nolan Arenado, both of whom have excelled on both sides of the ball in 2014. Uribe was hitting .303/.331/.454, a 119 OPS+ and 119 wRC+, with 11 doubles and four home runs, and was second in baseball with seven games of three hits or more at the time when he was hurt.
Arenado at age 23 is one of the bright young stars of baseball. He beat out fellow finalist Uribe for the 2013 Gold Glove Award at third base, and in 2014 was hitting .305/.333/.489, a 112 OPS+ and 111 wRC+, with 17 doubles and six home runs, and had a franchise-record 28-game hitting streak earlier this season.
Arenado leads all NL third baseman in Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games and Defensive Runs Saved (per Baseball Info Solutions), and is tied for first with Uribe in Total Zone Rating (per BaseballProjection.com). Uribe ranks third in both UZR/150 and DRS.
Uribe aggravated his right hamstring strain on May 20 and hasn't played since. Arenado broke his left middle finger three days later.
The Rockies are 8-13 since Arenado broke his finger, and his fill-ins at third base have hit just .244/.314/.359 with four doubles, a triple, a home run and six RBI. Charlie Culberson has been the main stand-in, with 51 of the 86 plate appearances since, and one of the attempted short-term solutions, Michael Cuddyer, was placed on the disabled list with a non-displaced fracture in his left shoulder socket.
The Dodgers have done much better at third base in Uribe's absence, though the team is just 13-12. A red-hot Justin Turner has 67 of the 102 plate appearances at third base with Uribe on the DL, and the team's collective third baseman have hit .304/.366/.446 with three home runs, four doubles and 15 RBI. But even Turner has been limited of late to pinch-hitting duty, not starting all weekend against Arizona thanks to calf tightness.
One of the Dodgers' attempted fill-ins, Chone Figgins, also hit the disabled list, with a left calf strain, and could be out a while depending on how Sunday's meeting with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache went. With Figgins out and Turner unable to run, minor league veteran Jamie Romak made his first major league start at third base on Sunday.
As for Uribe, manager Don Mattingly on Sunday was hopeful his third baseman would be activated this week, with the San Diego weekend series the mostly likely setting.
But the Rockies, one game under .500 but just two games behind the Dodgers, must wait a little longer for their third baseman to return. Arenado is likely out until the first week of July, noted Patrick Saunders in the Denver Post on Sunday.
"I know I'm not going to be the savior when I come back, but I know I can help this team win," Arenado told Saunders. "That's something that's huge for me, and knowing I'm not out there to help them out really hurts. The way we have been playing (stinks), and sitting on the bench knowing I can't help really hurts. But I just have to be a good teammate and be ready when I do come back."
Time: 7:10 p.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA