Dodgers' search for someone to hit second in lineup could have them thinking outside the box, though not the organization
There’s the old Abbott and Costello who’s-on-second bit, and the lesser-known but currently more relevant Dodgers’ who’s-batting-second routine.
Somebody has to hit second in the lineup. It’s in the rules and everything.
Only right now, the Dodgers have no ideal No. 2 hitter. Not even a resemblance of a No. 2 hitter.
Last season the one Dodger who batted second more than any other was -- Matt Kemp? It’s true. I loathed the idea from the get-go, not just because he’s a strikeout machine, but because I wanted one of the team’s few power bats in position to drive in more runs.
Kemp, however, hit 12 of his 28 home runs batting in the two spot, easily more than any other place he hit in the lineup, though over half of those came in April when he was on fire.
Trailing Kemp in the number of times batting second was Ryan Theriot, who’s outta here, and Russell Martin, ditto.
So who are the candidates next season?
Kemp, James Loney (ugh), Mystery Person in Left Field or ... Ivan DeJesus Jr.?
Now admittedly this is something of a reach, but one worth exploring. As of this moment, DeJesus does not figure to be on the 2011 club.
He did not even earn a September call-up, which, Dodgers.com's Ken Gurnick noted at the time, was a clear message. Gurnick said DeJesus was reportedly in the doghouse because he was struggling with the concept of teamwork.
And there’s another problem, though one we’ve seen before. DeJesus was drafted a shortstop but switched to second base last season and is still learning the nuances of the position. Similar comments were made a year ago with Blake DeWitt and he became their opening-day second baseman.
DeJesus, however, played for new manager Don Mattingly in the Arizona Fall League, and seemingly very well (.321 average, .411 on-base, .436 slugging). And during league play, he made it clear to mlb.com’s Danny Wild what his goal was for next season:
"I need to be ready in spring training and get that job at second base."
Since then, of course, the Dodgers have picked up a second baseman in newly signed Juan Uribe. Although, that appears a roadblock, it may not be.
One of the very good things about Uribe is his ability to play several infield positions, particularly third base. And as you may have noted, the Dodgers still do not have a starting left fielder, and possible free-agent candidates have dwindled down to a precious, if highly unspectacular, few.
So the Dodgers have to be considering moving Casey Blake from third to left, Uribe to third and starting DeJesus -- who has a career minor-league .369 on-base percentage -- at second and batting him in the No. 2 spot.
That’s a lot of movement, and rookies batting second are hardly ideal, but neither are any of the other current choices. Plus, Blake and his 17 home runs in left appear better than the remaining options.
That would also allow Andre Ethier, Kemp and Uribe to be featured in the middle of the lineup. Jay Gibbons could get some starts in left against right-handers, and the Dodgers get needed power in left with the Blake-Gibbons combo.
This requires that DeJesus step up in spring. He’ll still be a mostly young 24 in May, but his time should be coming.
DeJesus spent last season at triple-A Albuquerque, and considering he was returning from a leg injury that caused him to miss his 2009 season, had a reasonable year (.296, .369, .378).
That’s not to say he couldn’t benefit from another season at Albuquerque, but there should be an opportunity for more come spring. Because somebody has to bat second.
-- Steve Dilbeck