Mattingly Will Have Plenty Of Infield Options As Dodgers’ Spring Training Takes Full Swing
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBSLA.com/AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers return a lineup virtually intact from their NL West championship run.
The only real uncertainty is at second base, where Mark Ellis left via free agency to the St. Louis Cardinals.
While the Dodgers would love for Cuban defector Alex Guerrero to win the job, manager Don Mattingly knows it might be a shared assignment when the team opens its season with a pair of games against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney on March 22-23.
“It’s hard for us to say we can make a decision on that,” Mattingly said. “We can take a look at a combination of guys, what guys look like in camp, could it be a platoon-type situation? Is one of those guys a utility guy that can play a lot of second? I just think there’s too many questions for us to be able to say, `I want an everyday guy’ and try to force that. If it’s a square peg I don’t want to force it into the round hole. So I’m going to try to see what we’ve got first.”
There’s a long list of candidates for the job, among them ex-shortstop Dee Gordon, Justin Turner, Justin Fellers, Miguel Rojas, and Chone Figgins.
“Competitive I guess is what it is,” Mattingly said. “I think we’ve got a number of guys we’re going to be looking at.”
Although many had been there for a couple of days, position players officially reported to the Dodgers’ spring training facility on Thursday, with the first full-squad workout set for Friday.
Gordon, son of ex-major league pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon, was among the lightest players in the majors at just under 150 pounds last year. He’s up to a healthy 179 this year. Don’t expect that to diminish his speed. He’s one of the fastest players in the game.
Two years ago, he came to spring training anointed the starting shortstop and leadoff hitter. But he struggled at the plate, then went down with a thumb injury. That led the team to acquire Hanley Ramirez, and it’s been an uphill climb for Gordon since. He played most of last season for Triple-A Albuquerque.
The second base opening is a new opportunity.
“I’m just going to go in, play hard, play my game and whatever happens happens,” Gordon said. “If I go out and do what I need to do, I won’t have a regret about anything, good or bad.”
He said shifting to second shouldn’t be a problem.
“I love second base. It’s great,” Gordon said. “I mean, I love shortstop as well. I’m still working at shortstop, not saying I want to be the shortstop or anything. I’m just working there because it helps my feet, keeps my feet moving. It makes the transition to second base a little easier.”
The Dodgers obviously think the job should be Guerrero’s eventually, signing him last October to a four-year, $28 million contract.
Guerrero, too, is a shortstop by experience.
“We haven’t got to see him play at all,” Mattingly said. “I’ve seen video. One thing I do know is the guys that our scouts have told us can play, they can play. And they’ve told us that Alex can play.”
On Feb. 13, the Dodgers reached agreement on signing another shortstop, Cuban Erisbel Arruebarruena. The Dodgers don’t expect him to start in the big-leagues right away, but the Dodgers could count for him to fill in for Ramirez at shortstop in the future and could possibly play second.
Turner, a utility infielder, is a non-roster invitee who hit .280 in 86 games for the New York Mets last season and signed a minor league deal with Los Angeles. Fellers hit .297 in 89 games for Albuquerque last year and .188 in 27 games for the Dodgers.
The slick-fielding Rojas hit .233 for Double-A Chattanooga in the Cincinnati organization in 2013. The 36-year-old Figgins, who had some good years with the Los Angeles Angels, also signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers.
Even if Guerrero gets the everyday job, those who didn’t make it will vie for the job of backup for the infield positions.