The unexpected Jamey Carroll, now excelling as a leadoff hitter
Normally, a 37-year-old leadoff hitter is about as high on managers’ wish lists as a teenage cleanup hitter.
Yet there is Jamey Carroll, not only filling in for the injured Rafael Furcal at shortstop, but also taking his place in the leadoff spot.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly also likes to bat Carroll eighth, which he still does when Tony Gwynn Jr. is not in the lineup.
But Carroll is the only Dodger not named Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier who is actually hitting. He’s batting .316 on the season, with an impressive .388 on-base percentage.
Carroll is playing so well, it would seem hard not to lead him off until Furcal returns.
"Yeah, right now, for the most part," Mattingly said. "It kind of depends, like when T. Gwynn plays.
"With Jamey, I know I can put him either in the beginning or back in the eight hole. He’s probably as good as anybody back there. But I feel for the most part, he’s going to hit leadoff right now."
For his part, the hustling Carroll said he’s unconcerned where he bats.
"It doesn’t really matter, the goal is the same -- to try and get on base,’’ Carroll said.
Carroll is actually hitting better in the eight hole (.366) than in the leadoff spot (.317), but has scored 12 runs leading off (60 at-bats) vs. two runs hitting eighth (41).
"It’s been fun to get on base again and score, especially with the years Kemp and Ethier are having," Carroll said. "At the top of the lineup, you’re just begging to get on for those guys.
"But even in the eight hole, the whole goal is to get on and turn the lineup over, so my philosophy is the same. So far it’s been all right. Now if I can just get a hit with runners in scoring position, I’ll be OK."
That’s one more reason to bat him leadoff, rather than eighth where he is more likely to have RBI opportunities. Carroll is batting only two for 19 (.105) with runners in scoring position.
But leadoff guys need to get on base, and in Carroll’s year-plus with the Dodgers (565 at-bats), he has a .377 on-base percentage. Which as ESPN/LA’s Jon Weisman points out, places him 12th on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ all-time list.
Furcal could return from his broken thumb in a week. Carroll would likely then get most of the starts at second until third baseman Casey Blake returns and Juan Uribe moves back to second.
For now, though, the Dodgers have themselves a productive leadoff hitter, 37 years old and all.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Dodgers infielder Jamey Carroll heads to third base during the fifth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Credit: Anthony Gruppuso / US Presswire