Everyone seemed certain Alex Guerrero could hit. A very impressive batter. The problem then, and now, was finding a place on the field to play him.
Guerrero arrived from Cuba as a shortstop, was converted to second base after signing with the Dodgers last year, could not make the transition, and this season is playing both third and left field.
By now it would be nice to report Guerrero has finally embraced one spot and the Dodgers are now convinced his future is at specified position. It would be very nice, and also completely untrue.
The Dodgers are past the one-third mark of the season and have absolutely no more idea where he will ultimately end up than they did at the start of spring training. Truth is, both positions are still a struggle. He can look particularly awkward in left, this whole outfield thing still appearing foreign.
“We can’t put him anywhere where he gets to play every day, every day,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “And so we have to try and help him learn on the fly. At the big-league level, you’re trying to learn to play third and at the big-league level you’re trying to play left -- that’s the toughest thing.”
The Dodgers would like to see how his bat responded to regular playing time, there’s just no spot open and opportunities could become even more precious with the return of Yasiel Puig in the outfield.
Guerrero is batting .281 with 10 homers, 27 RBIs and a .623 slugging percentage. He’s third on the team in homers, even though he has about half many at-bats as most regulars. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, he’d be second in the National League (10.36) to Washington’s Bryce Harper (9.6) in home runs per at-bat.
With Justin Turner and Alberto Callaspo (and previously Juan Uribe) at third, he’s received the bulk of his starts in left. But with Puig back, Andre Ethier has been moved to left field. Against left-handers, Ethier will sit and Guerrero could start in left, but even that part-time status will be in jeopardy when Scott Van Slyke comes off the disabled list, possibly on Sunday.
They can’t use him as a designated hitter, so beyond the short term, they’d best figure out where he can play. Right now, they’re not getting any closer.
“I think he can play third, I think he can play left,” Mattingly said. “But the amount of experience we’re able to give him is just going to retard the process, as far as him playing every day and getting a chance to be really good somewhere.”