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Darnell Sweeney gets fresh start in return to Dodgers

Sweeney was drafted by LA in 13th round in 2012

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers
Darnell Sweeney will be in big league camp in spring training with the Dodgers.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — Former Dodgers prospect Darnell Sweeney had a down year in 2016 in Triple-A with the Phillies, but will get a chance to prove himself in big league camp in spring training in his return to his original team.

Sweeney was traded along with Darin Ruf on Friday to the Dodgers in exchange for Howie Kendrick.

It was Kendrick’s hamstring injury in August 2015 that opened a hole at second base, filled with a trade for Chase Utley, a deal that sent Sweeney and minor league pitcher John Richy to the Phillies.

Drafted in 2012 as a shortstop, Sweeney has found a utility role suits him more defensively, working more at second base, third base, center field and left field the last three years. The one thing he did in the minors with the Dodgers, no matter where he played on defense, was hit.

Sweeney hit .280/.353/.441 in four years in the minors with the Dodgers, averaging 44 extra-base hits and 31 steals per season before he was traded. He finished off 2015 in the majors — hitting .176/.286/.353 in 98 plate appearances — but in 2016 was stuck in Triple-A all year.

In 118 games in Lehigh Valley in 2016, Sweeney hit .233/.299/.345 with 12 steals in 23 attempts. He was sent outright to the minors on Sept. 5, removing him from the 40-man roster.

Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said that Sweeney, who turns 26 on Feb. 1, is likely ticketed for Oklahoma City to start 2017.

"He had a little bit of a down season in Triple-A, but we've seen him very good in our organization. He's a very versatile player defensively, and he switch hits. We view him as major league depth,” Zaidi said. “His versatility could help him earn some type of a role with the big club.”

Sweeney, who was a non-roster invitee with the Dodgers in spring training in 2015, will be in big league camp with the Dodgers in 2017 as well. Should Sweeney at some point be added back to the 40-man roster, he does have two options remaining, having used one option year in 2016.

LA-Philly pipeline

This is the fourth trade between the Dodgers and Phillies in the last two years, with the Dodgers also acquiring Jimmy Rollins (December 2014), Utley (August 2015) and Carlos Ruiz (August 2016).

This deal or some variation might have happened sooner, as Ruf was on the Dodgers’ radar approaching the non-waiver trade deadline of Aug. 1 this season, trying to address the club’s deficiencies against left-handers, Zaidi said, but the two clubs did not work out a trade at the time.

This was the second deal between the two teams with new Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, who was hired last October. Klentak was the assistant general manager with the Angels for four years, including three of those years when Kendrick played in Anaheim.

"Howie Kendrick brings a proven, veteran presence to our young lineup," Klentak said Friday. "He is a hard worker, a great teammate and a true professional hitter. In addition, Howie's defensive versatility provides significant flexibility to our roster, which should prove to be valuable to our club in 2017.”