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Next season Dodgers caught in dilemma behind plate

August 23, 2010 |  2:19 pm
Rod Barajas is scheduled to join the team in Milwaukee on Tuesday, and let the confetti fly. Sorry, it really is an upgrade at the catching position.

That’s what it’s come down to, the Dodgers picking up a Mets reject on the cheap. And one who turns 35 on Sept. 5.

So this is no long-term solution but a move to get through the rest of the year.

Trouble is, the Dodgers need a long-term solution, because right now they have no starting catcher for 2011.

It just wouldn’t be prudent for the Dodgers to count on Russell Martin returning behind the plate next season.

Martin’s hip injury is a bit of an unknown. A labral tear normally comes from repetitive use, not trauma like Martin experienced. And although other players have come back from the injury, none were catchers. None has to squat behind the plate more than 100 times a game and put that kind of stress on the hip joint.

So if Martin pulls his comeback, great. More power to him. The Dodgers just had better not go into the off-season planning on it.

Barajas’ numbers are pretty unimpressive (.225, 12 home runs, 34 RBI), but he does have a little pop. Behind the plate, he’s thrown out only four of 27.

Brad Ausmus, who threw out 49% of all base stealers in 1997, is currently 0-for-9. And he’s hitting .196 with no home runs and two RBI in 46 at-bats. Anyway, he’s 41 and retiring at the end of the season.

A.J. Ellis was sent down after his three hits Sunday to make room on the 25-man roster for Barajas. He’s thrown out five of 25 base stealers and hit .208 without a home run and 10 RBI in 72 at-bats.

And right now, your 2011 starting catcher?

Not likely. The Dodgers like Ellis behind the plate, but he’s 29. He’s an able backup, but it’s not like there’s some huge upside here.

Which leaves the Dodgers … where?

Doing the Band-Aid approach right now but without a starting catcher for next season.

The Dodgers, of course, did trade highly rated prospect Carlos Santana for Casey Blake in 2008. And last month they traded good-hitting Lucas May to Kansas City for outfielder Scott Podsednik.

The Dodgers were convinced May wasn’t ready to handle a Major League staff, having been converted from shortstop to catcher in 2007.

Martin, of course, was converted from third to catcher in 2003 and was the Dodgers’ regular catcher by 2006.
 
For all their other obvious needs, catching could loom as the Dodgers’ biggest area of concern going into next season.

-- Steve Dilbeck
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