Thursday, March 20, 2008

Starting at Third for the Los Angeles Dodgers...

Not that they ever really had one to begin with, but the Dodgers have lost both of their potential starting third basemen to injury over the past couple weeks.

Andy LaRoche tore a ligament in his right thumb during a Spring Training game on March 7. The injury required surgery and will keep him out of the lineup until at least mid-May. He and Nomar Garciaparra were expected to battle it out for the starting spot in the hot corner, but Garciaparra was hit on the wrist by a pitch later in the same game.

Garciaparra continued playing in Spring Training, but the pain in his wrist worsened over the course of this week. An MRI on Wednesday revealed a microfracture, akin to a bad bone bruise, on his right wrist. It’s possible that he won’t be ready for Opening Day.

Blake Dewitt, a 22-year-old who has never played above Double A (though that was the case with Matt Kemp as well and look how he turned out) and Tony Abreu (still not 100% after abdominal surgery) are the leading candidates to start at third if Nomar isn’t ready by the 31st.

Nomar: more wrist woes (is this 1999? Or 2001?)

Because the injuries to LaRoche and Garciaparra are short term, General Manager Ned Colletti resisted any suggestion of looking for outside help to fill the hole at third. Here’s the thing, though: I’m not convinced that either one will be what the team needs at the hot corner. The Dodgers haven’t had a truly permanent third baseman since Adrian Beltre left in 2004. Even then, Beltre was an above average fielder and a solid (but not spectacular save for his 2004 breakout season) hitter. Over the past three seasons, countless forgettable players have drifted in and out of the five spot, always failing to impress enough to stick around.

LaRoche: Future master of the LA hot corner?

Garciaparra is a shortstop-converted-into-a-first-baseman-then-shuffled-to-third-by-default when James Loney stepped up his game and became a minor phenomenon in the second half of 2007. LaRoche is a third baseman, but a very young one who failed to impress in his limited time in The Show in 2007. Now, fingers crossed that one of them will step up this year and bring back some pride to the position at Dodger Stadium. If not…well I’ll be sighing a lot during the season wondering why we didn’t go after Miguel Cabrera harder when he had the chance.

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