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Scramble for infield backup spot as Casey Blake appears headed for disabled list to start season

March 21, 2011 |  4:55 pm

Aaron-Miles_640 Looks like caution will rule the day. Hey, if your team creaks when it walks, sounds like a plan.

Don Mattingly said Monday that it appeared Casey Blake would likely start the season on the disabled list.

"We’re definitely moving in that direction," Mattingly said.

Blake has been out with a strained back/rib cage since March 12. He’s hit off a tee, but that’s been about it for actual baseball activity. Rushing back just to play in the March 31 opener would be silly, and Mattingly seems to know it.

Better to give him an extra week or two to make sure the back is sound than risk re-injury.

Blake's starting the season on the DL would open another roster spot for an infielder. In the nine days since Blake, 37, was injured, however, the competition has appeared to become only more muddled.

And that’s assuming Juan Uribe moves over to third and Jamey Carroll starts at second. Carroll has been nursing a bruised hand and missing time himself.

Without Blake, Aaron Miles appears to have the edge at the moment in securing the extra infield spot. He’s hitting .343 with a .629 slugging percentage.

But Ivan De Jesus Jr., who looked as if  he wasn’t going to get it going this spring, is making a late bid. Mattingly would prefer that he play every day, however, so unless they’re ready to start him at second and push Carroll back to his utility role, he still seems headed to triple-A.

Then there is the unexpected Hector Gimenez, who came to camp as a switch-hitting catcherbut has been playing first base, and Mattingly said Monday he would also get a look in the outfield. Gimenez is second on the team this spring in home runs (three) and runs batted in (seven).

Gimenez, like outfielder Xavier Paul, is out of options and the Dodgers would risk losing him if they send him back down.

Plus, Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames can play some first if the Dodgers wanted to spell James Loney. So many options, if none exactly thrilling.

The Dodgers also have light-hitting infielders Juan Castro and Eugenio Velez. Ten days until the season opener, and this one could go to the end of spring training.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Aaron Miles. Credit: Jake Roth / US Presswire