Who will be left holding the bag at second for the Dodgers?

Who will be left holding the bag at second for the Dodgers?
Alex Guerrero stands a decent chance at starting at second base for the Dodgers on opening day, but several other players are in line for the position if the 26-year-old Cuban doesn't make the roster. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

PHOENIX — With fewer than three weeks remaining until opening day, the Dodgers don't know who's on second.

Early signs point to newcomer Alex Guerrero starting the season in the minor leagues. Unless that changes, the Dodgers probably will resort to filling the position with some combination of players from a group that includes Dee Gordon, Justin Turner, Miguel Rojas, Chone Figgins and Brendan Harris.

"It's up in the air," Manager Don Mattingly conceded.

So far in the exhibition season, time at second base has been split between Guerrero and Gordon, which reflects the team's $28-million commitment to Guerrero and the upside of the fleet-footed Gordon.


Guerrero, a 27-year-old rookie who defected last year from Cuba, has started four of the Dodgers' seven games to date; Gordon has started the other three.

Dodgers officials rave about Guerrero's work ethic and character but are considerably less enthusiastic about what they have seen on the field.

Guerrero is adjusting to a new country while also learning a new position, telling himself the game here is no different than it was in Cuba, where he was a shortstop.

"It's same ball; it rolls the same," he said. "Where you would dive here, you would dive in Cuba."

Guerrero's transition to second base started even before camp opened, as he worked out with instructors Jose Vizcaino and Juan Castro.

"I feel really comfortable at second base," he said.

Guerrero barely played any baseball last year, which could explain why he has rarely hit the ball hard in the exhibition games. Mattingly is trying to get Guerrero as many at-bats as possible, using him as designated hitter or mid-game substitute on days he hasn't started at second base. Guerrero is hitting .267 this spring.

Like Guerrero, Gordon is also learning a new position.

Gordon was the Dodgers' opening-day shortstop in 2012, but he had trouble getting on base, throwing accurately and staying healthy. His role diminished when the Dodgers traded for Hanley Ramirez that year.

Gordon said he added 13 pounds over the winter and reported to camp at 172 pounds. He said he weighed 135 pounds when the Dodgers drafted him in 2008.

"I told them I was 150," he said, laughing at the memory.

Gordon is hoping the extra weight will allow him to hit the ball with greater authority. He has tripled in each of his last three games and is batting .273.

He has looked solid on defense, too.

Gordon started playing the outfield in the Dominican winter league and that newfound versatility figures to help him land a place on the team, even if it's as a reserve.

Of the players behind Guerrero and Gordon, Turner is probably the most steady. A natural second baseman, he hit a combined .267 over the last three seasons as a utilityman with the New York Mets. Turner, 29, played at Mayfair High in Lakewood and Cal State Fullerton.

Rojas, 25, has drawn comparisons to Omar Vizquel, but only as a defender. Rojas batted .233 last season with double-A Chattanooga, where he was a shortstop. Rojas said when he has spent time with his idol Vizquel in their native Venezuela, Vizquel has reminded him to try not to do too much at the plate.

A former All-Star with the Angels, Figgins, 36, is coming off a year in which he didn't play a single game because no team wanted him. He batted a combined .227 over his three most recent seasons, all with the Seattle Mariners. In addition to second base, Figgins can play third base, shortstop and in the outfield.

Harris is another former Angel. He has some power for a middle infielder, with 12 home runs with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2007 and four homers in 44 games with the Angels last year.

The Dodgers could have avoided their current dilemma had they exercised a $5.75-million option on Mark Ellis, who went on to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ellis was arguably the team's best defensive player and was adequate at the plate for a team with the likes of Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez in the lineup. But Ellis will turn 37 this season and the Dodgers were intent on becoming younger.

"It's not a situation that really makes me nervous," Mattingly said. "I like the combination of guys we've got there and I think we're going to be OK however it ends up."

If this sounds familiar, it's because this isn't the first time Mattingly has been optimistic about a problematic part of his team. Mattingly said something similar in 2011, when he argued that a left-field platoon of Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames would be an upgrade over a post-suspension Manny Ramirez.

Gibbons was designated for assignment a little more than two months into that season. Thames was released soon after.

As for Mattingly, he later admitted he wasn't nearly as hopeful as he represented.

Twitter: @dylanohernandez