The Dodgers' best plan when Casey Blake is out
That resting Casey Blake plan must appear slightly more viable to the 37-year-old third baseman about now.
Blake is currently out with a sore back/ribs after injuring himself bunting. Yeah, bunting. When you’re closing in on 40, these things can happen. Followed by arthritis, age spots and Social Security.
Blake is being asked to bat second this year, an idea absolutely no one really likes, not that anyone can come up with a better one given this lineup’s curious makeup.
Bunting, however, probably should not be asked of Blake. He’s managed 22 successful bunts in almost 5,000 career plate appearances. Blake is a few solar systems away from a traditional No. 2 hitter, so there’s no reason to force him to act like one.
Blake being out now, however, brings greater focus to which way the Dodgers go when he’s not in the lineup. Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said Monday that Blake was scheduled for an MRI but was only expected to be out about another three days or so.
OK, but it’s a back and who knows? If it takes longer, or reoccurs, what’s the best backup plan? And what’s the plan when Blake is simply rested more frequently during the season, as Mattingly insists he will do?
Blake reiterated to The Times' James Peltz on Monday that he still wants to be a traditional everyday third baseman, but at least in the early going Mattingly is apparently going to stick with his plan of resting him regularly.
There are plenty of options when Blake is out, but much like this team, none too sexy.
Guys who can play third include Juan Uribe, Jamey Carroll, Russell Mitchell, and reaching deeper, Aaron Miles and Juan Castro.
As I’ve stated earlier, defensively I like Uribe better at third, where his limited range is less a factor than playing up the middle at second. So for an extended period, or just the weekly rest of Blake, I like moving Uribe over to third.
Happily, so does Mattingly, at least if Blake is out longer than currently forecast. Mattingly said Monday if that were the case, he’s move Uribe to third and start Carroll at second, which is the best scenario. Carroll would slip into the second spot in the lineup, where he’s a more natural fit than Blake.
And that should be the plan during the season too. The Dodgers understandably love Carroll’s versatility, but the reality is their best current lineup probably has him starting as much as possible. You lose on the back end, but it’s more important what your gaining up front.
If Blake is unable to start the season, then that opens up another infielder spot on the roster, which at this point, looks like good news for Miles. He’s getting a long look, playing well (.346 batting, .692 slugging percentage) and can play several infield positions.
I was hoping Ivan De Jesus Jr. might tear it up this spring, possibly even earning the starting second base spot -- moving Uribe to third and Blake to utility infielder/outfielder/pinch hitter -- but that’s not happening. Juan Castro is a great guy, but he’s 107 years old and wasn't exactly star material when he was 25. Russ Mitchell, whom for reasons unknown Mattingly said earlier this spring would be the long-term replacement for James Loney at first if he were injured, seems thankfully out of the backup third-base plan.
When you already have something of a duct-taped lineup to begin with and your starting third basemen is going to turn 38 in August, you’d better have a first back-up plan. Sexy or not.
-- Steve Dilbeck