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Enrique Hernandez is first up as Dodgers' backup third baseman

Enrique Hernandez is first up as Dodgers' backup third baseman
Enrique Hernandez hits an infield single to score Jose Peraza during the third inning of a game gainst the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 29. The Dodgers beat the Cubs, 5-2. (Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

The answer as to who would be the Dodgers' backup third baseman after Alberto Callaspo was released got its first response Sunday: Enrique Hernandez.

He is in the lineup against the Cubs, marking his first appearance there all season. He played three games at third last season and 25 games at the corner during his five-plus years in the minors. He last played there during spring training.

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"It's not like he's a guy who never played third," said Manager Don Mattingly. "He's played there in winter ball, he's played there different times. He's not a guy who hasn't been over there."

This season the versatile Hernandez has played all three outfield spots, second and shortstop. Mattingly's other current choice at third to give Justin Turner a day off is Alex Guerrero.

The Dodgers are not exactly overexcited with his defense at third, and Guerrrero long ago stopped hitting. He exploded at the season's start, putting up a .370/.407/.815 slash line in his first 23 games. But in his 65 games since May 13, his line is a woeful .176/.193/.309.

"You throw everything into the pot when you're making a choice," Mattingly said. "Eventually you get to who gives you the best chance to win, and right now I feel like it's [Hernandez]."

Hernandez, 24, has hit well all season (.313), but particularly of late. In his last 22 games, he has a .391/.440/.594 slash line.

His starting at third Sunday for Turner -- who had just played five consecutive games for the first time all season -- does not mean it will continue, however.

Chase Utley has been taking ground balls at third in the hopes he can get some time there when second baseman Howie Kendrick comes off the disabled list with his hamstring issue. Utley has never played third in the majors in his 13-year career.

Follow Steve Dilbeck on Twitter @stevedilbeck

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