Keeping Two Shortstops Might Be Best
Dodger officials say the starting shortstop position is up for grabs between Mark Grudzielanek and Jose Vizcaino.
It’s not. The job is actually Grudzielanek’s to lose, and Vizcaino would have to thoroughly outperform Grudzielanek during spring training to regain the spot. Grudzielanek is more skilled offensively, younger and is paid less. The problem for Grudzielanek is that he has been among the worst fielders at his position since he broke into the major leagues in 1995.
Grudzielanek worked with former major league shortstop Bucky Dent during the off-season on his fielding, and General Manager Kevin Malone and Manager Davey Johnson hope Grudzielanek shows signs of improvement during spring training. The sure-handed Vizcaino is considerably better defensively.
Each player has his supporters in the clubhouse and front office, which begs the question: Why not have both on the opening-day roster?
Assuming Malone doesn’t have a blockbuster deal up his sleeve, the Dodgers’ best 25-man roster includes both shortstops.
If Grudzielanek retains the job as expected, the switch-hitting Vizcaino could be a valuable reserve. As much as Johnson likes to double-switch and counter opponents’ moves, Vizcaino could provide greater flexibility.
Moreover, Vizcaino also plays second and third. Young third baseman Adrian Beltre is getting his second shot to play every day, but he still might not be ready. Vizcaino could be an insurance policy at third.
Of course, there could be a couple of problems with keeping Vizcaino, who would basically be forced into a utility role. At 31, he still wants to be an everyday player, and he is owed $3 million this season in the second year of a three-year, $9.5-million deal.
Some might be surprised that the Dodgers have financial concerns, considering their off-season spending and a payroll expected to be between $80 million to $85 million. But they do.
New York Yankee backup catcher Joe Girardi will make $3.4 million this season, indicating the rising cost of quality role players. But the Yankees are all about winning, and the Dodgers say they are too.
If Malone and Johnson believe Vizcaino could make a difference, and if they can convince him to accept being on the bench, the team might be better off if the Fox Group would bump the budget a little.
Right-hander Darren Dreifort was impressive pitching batting practice Saturday. So much so that Raul Mondesi wishes the season had already started. “Oh, man,” Mondesi said, shaking his head. “That ball [went] up, down, away [on the] corner. Real nice.” . . . Intrasquad games will be played Tuesday and Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. EST. . . . Right-handers Kevin Brown and Chan Ho Park will pitch simulated games this week.