Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly spent the better parts of the last two seasons juggling a crowded outfield that came with plenty of sizable egos. He figured to have the same challenge this season, but injuries to Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig have simplified matters.
The same can’t be said for third base, however. Heading into Spring Training, Juan Uribe figured to retain his post as the regular starter with Justin Turner occasionally spelling the now-36 year old. It was a formula that worked to success last season and there was no reason to expect otherwise in 2015, even if there was some regression to the mean for Turner.
That’s since changed as Uribe went on to have a sluggish spring and slow start to the season. Meanwhile, Alex Guerrero stated his case during Cactus League play and continued to do so in minimal opportunities through the first few weeks of the season.
Guerrero’s success quickly led to calls for him to replace Uribe as the club’s full-time starter, which Mattingly regularly shot down, explaining it would be unfair to simply cast Turner and Uribe aside. However, he also allowed for changes to be made down the line, based on results.
With Uribe out of the lineup Tuesday for a third consecutive game, the fifth-year manager acknowledged what has become obvious — the Dodgers don’t have a true starter at third base.
“I don’t like saying it like that,” Mattingly said when questioned if third base was without a regular starter. “But yeah, third base this year has been a little bit like the outfield last year, trying to figure out that spot.”
Mattingly went on to credit Guerrero for unexpectedly throwing his hat into the ring saying, “Alex has been the guy that’s muddied the water, to his credit.” Mattingly also added complimented Uribe, “Juan has swung the bat pretty well too. It makes it tough to try to find a spot to get all these guys in.”
Guerrero started Tuesday and went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. He’s now batting .353/.393/.784 with six home runs, four doubles and 16 RBIs in 56 plate appearances over 22 games (12 starts).
Turner hit a go-ahead pinch-hit home run in Sunday’s game and is hitting .309/.377/.655 with five home runs and 13 RBIs in 61 plate appearances. He’s started 12 of the 25 games he’s appeared in, with seven of the starts coming at third base.
Uribe leads the trio with 75 plate appearances in 23 games (19 starts); he appeared as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s win and flied out on the first pitch of his at-bat. He once had a 13-game hitting streak, though with only one extra-base hit during the stretch.
Uribe is now batting .257/.293/.329 with one home run and six RBIs in a pivotal contract year. The veteran third baseman recently said he understands Mattingly’s need to assemble the best lineup on a nightly basis, but added his desire is to play often as a showcase of sorts for other teams.
It was reported in the first week of May the Dodgers would at some point part ways with one of their third baseman and Guerrero had already garnered trade interest.