Today brought the Dodgers’ ugliest game of 2015, with four errors — including a pair in a three-run third inning by Texas — and a pickoff play that saw the fleet Scott Van Slyke run all the way from first base to second to tag out Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus.
J.P. Howell, Pedro Baez, David Aardsma and Daniel Coulombe combined to allow eight runs in relief, and Ramon Troncoso — back from obscurity (and minor-league camp) for his first appearance as a Dodger since 2011 – gave up a two-run single before preserving the 11-11 tie, the Dodgers’ record-tying fifth of Spring Training.
This was a half-full, half-empty cup — a humongous half-full, half-empty cup.
With 15 hits (including Howie Kendrick’s monster three-run homer in the fifth inning) and five walks, the upside of the Dodger offense spoke for itself. But quietly, there was another interesting sidelight.
When I was out at Spring Training before Cactus League in February, it appeared to me that Alex Guerrero was comfortable taking grounders at third, and nothing I’ve seen this month has sharply dissuaded me of that point.
Today, Guerrero got his first game action for the Dodgers at shortstop, the position that he played throughout his Cuban career but that he has been steered away from since coming to Los Angeles. And whether it was backhanding a line drive, charging a slow grounder or starting the game-on-the-line forceout with the winning run in scoring position, Guerrero looked very easy and relaxed.
And by the way, he’s 9 for 20 with a walk and only two strikeouts in Spring Training, after OPSing .978 in Triple-A last year — despite his ear calamity — so he’s not exactly hopeless at the plate.
I don’t pretend to assume that Guerrero is Ozzie Smith on defense — I’m not even sure if he’s Ozzie Smith on offense. Far savvier people than me have critiqued his fielding. But if Guerrero is merely adequate at multiple positions (second, short, third and left), that changes the tone of the conversation about him considerably. There’s been a lot of concern that Guerrero will be stealing a roster spot from someone more deserving. I look at him, and I don’t at all see a black hole.
Don Mattingly on Alex Guerrero at SS: "He seems a lot more comfortable … he's pushing us to give him a little more of a utility look."
— Eric Stephen (@truebluela) March 17, 2015
Players such as Darwin Barney and Kike Hernandez are absolutely deserving of being on the Opening Day roster. But if they start 2015 in the minors to allow the Dodgers a longer look at Guerrero, there are far worse things for a contending club.