PHOENIX — With fewer than three weeks remaining until opening day, the
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
"It's up in the air," Manager
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
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
Rojas, 25, has drawn comparisons to
A former All-Star with the
Harris is another former Angel. He has some power for a middle infielder, with 12 home runs with the
The Dodgers could have avoided their current dilemma had they exercised a $5.75-million option on
Ellis was arguably the team's best defensive player and was adequate at the plate for a team with the likes of Ramirez and
"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
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.