Maybe they should call it the Solid Seven. It certainly hasn’t been nine of late.
The Dodgers find themselves in first place with seven starters and two other “who-the-hell-will-it-be” players rounding out the line-up. The “hell” part is coming from the corner positions.
Third base has been somewhat of a mess since Juan Uribe, signed to a fat $24 million deal in 2011, decided to take the money and sit. Dodgers fans were willing to give Uribe a pass on his useless season last year (.204, 4 HR in 77 games) because he suffered a myriad of injuries. Well, no more free passes for Uribe; even if he has been bothered by a troublesome wrist.
He is currently batting .186 with two home runs and 17 RBI. Uribe has been such a disappointment, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has decided that a cast of aging cast-offs can do better.
Uribe has been aced out by a bunch of journeymen veterans, including Adam Kennedy, 36, Jerry Hairston, 36 and Luis Cruz, who is only 28 but had failed to latch on with five other organizations before the Dodgers picked him up. It is almost like Uribe is the fourth option at third these days (though Hairston just went on the DL). The biggest surprise may be Cruz who seems to earn more playing time each time he is given a chance. Cruz, who never hit better than .235 in three other stints at the major league level, is batting .270 in 33 games. He has gone 6 for 10 in his last three games.
Although Uribe is still under contract through next year, the acquisition of Hanley Ramirez could spell the end to Uribe ever becoming an everyday starter. Ramirez is patrolling shortstop for now because Dee Gordon is still recovering from a thumb injury. If Gordon can return and find a batting stroke, chances are Uribe will be one of those guys the Dodgers are paying even though they let him go.
A guy who may end up exiting right behind Uribe when the season ends is first baseman James Loney. Loney is batting .251 with two home runs. The left handed hitter is hitting a paltry .216 versus left handed pitchers. Kennedy, Hairston, and veteran Juan Rivera, have all pushed Loney, a man who has played an average of 160 games a year the last four years, aside when the time calls for it.
Loney is a free agent after this season. I’ve got to believe the Dodgers, who rank last in the majors in home runs, will try hard to get someone who can provide the kind of power one expects from a position usually associated with home runs.
Billingsley-scary when hairy
It’s all about the hair; at least for Chad Billingsley.
The Dodgers starting pitcher was heading south both statistically as well as rotation-wise in 2012 when the All-Star break mercifully halted his slide. On July 7th, Billingsley was 4-9 and had lost his previous five starts. His solid 3.57 ERA ballooned to 4.30.
Manager Don Mattingly sent a “get it together” message when he revamped the rotation and moved Billingsley from the number two spot to the number four slot in order to reward Chris Capuano who was 9-3. Then to add injury to insult, Billingsley suffered inflammation in his elbow and found himself on the 15 day DL from July 8th until the 23rd. He went on the DL as Delilah but seems to have returned as Samson.
Since his return, Billingsley is 5-0 with a 1.56 ERA. He is also a lot hairier. And therein might lie the secret.
Billingsley entered spring training clean shaven and grew a little goatee as the season wore on. But since his return from the DL, Billingsley has let it all hang out and now sports a full beard. I say take a lesson from the Giants Brian Wilson and simply let it go. Stay hairy, my friend.
Warming Up to L.A.
Shane Victorino has finally gone from a simmer to a flame.
Victorino got just two hits in his first 17 at bats as a Dodger. But he has since gone 12 for 40 (.300) and takes an eight game hitting streak into the third game of the four game series against the Pirates.
A failed test that may give the Dodgers a pass
San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, has been suspended for 50 games after he tested positive for excessive testosterone levels. Hopefully, the Dodgers can take advantage of their division rivals losing one of their big bats.
Cabrera is batting .346 with 11 home runs. It is almost easy to accept these results given Cabrera never batted higher than .280 or hit more than 13 home runs in a season for his first six years and then jumped to a .305 BA with 201 hits and 18 HR last year with the Royals.
Dodgers president opens up
Team president Stan Kasten is continuing to make good on his promise to be accessible to fans.
On Wednesday, August 29th, while the Dodgers are in Colorado, he will be opening up both himself and the Dodger Stadium gates to fans for a Q&A session with him. The event is free and will be moderated by Los Angeles Times sports editor Bill Dwyre. Beginning August 20th, fans interested in attending can make a reservation by clicking here.