Most wanted him gone. Released, shipped out, his contract eaten.
Juan Uribe had been a bust. A gamble gone bad. Signed for three years at $21 million, Uribe was so awful at the plate he almost difficult to watch.
His first season with the Dodgers, he batted .204. His second season, his average somehow dropped to .191 (with two homers and 17 RBI). He lost his job to career-minor leaguer Luis Cruz.
On a team with new ownership willing to spend, he seemed hopelessly lost. In truth, it only seemed a matter of time before the Dodgers cut him this spring.
Only it never happened. And now, he’s again playing the hero, again looking like the man who helped lead the Giants to their first World Series title.
Monday he capped his return from the shadows, powering three solo home runs in the Dodgers’ 8-1 victory over the Diamondbacks. On the season, he’s hitting .279 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI.
Now one of the best moves the Dodgers made this spring was the cut they didn’t make.
“The one thing about Juan, he always, always, always, always in the three years he’s been here, has been a good defender,” said Manager Don Mattingly.
“I think the thing with us last year that opened our eyes was just how good of a teammate he was. When Louie (Cruz) was here and kind of tearing it up and the darling of L.A. last year for a period of time, Juan was a really good teammate. I think during that period of time – but not just that period of time – he gained a lot of respect in the clubhouse for his treatment of Louie.
“And then Juan came in great shape.”
Uribe had a hip flexor injury his first season with the Dodgers, missing 75 games. He missed a month last year with a wrist injury.
But the stats didn’t care, and neither did most fans. Uribe, however, honed new determination.
“No excuse when I have a bad year,” Uribe said. “I had injuries, but my two years were not too good. I tried to work hard this year a lot in the Dominican, to try to help my team.”
Uribe again started the season behind Cruz. When Cruz faltered, he joined a rotation but soon his improved play earned him the regular starting spot again. His defensive play at third has some suggesting he’s deserving of a Gold Glove.
Uribe said the past two disappointing seasons had been difficult, but there was no one to blame.
“It’s nobody’s fault,” he said. “It’s my fault. I didn’t play the way the team needed. That’s why I worked hard this winter in the Dominican, to do better, to help my team and have a good year.”
Uribe made the team but again started the season behind Cruz. When Cruz faltered, Uribe joined a rotation but soon his improved play earned him the regular starting spot again.
Now he’s become a factor in the lineup and enjoys good clubhouse interplay with rookie Yasiel Puig and veteran Hanley Ramirez.
“He just continues to get big hits for us,” Mattingly said.