Apr 19

Uribe could be sidelined for some time

The Dodgers’ first significant lineup change of the season may be underway, with Juan Uribe headed to see a specialist about his injured left wrist.

Uribe, with a .257 on-base percentage and .265 slugging this season in 36 plate appearances (one walk, one double) has missed two games already on this road trip. The trip to the specialist is “an indication that the club is concerned the injury — incurred during a slide — could be something serious,” writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

I’m not so sure a great many Dodger fans will be crushed by this news. Uribe’s value to the Dodgers has mainly been reduced to his defense at third base.

In the short term, Jerry Hairston Jr., Adam Kennedy and Justin Sellers can all play third base for the Dodgers. If Uribe goes on the disabled list, Josh Fields (.949 OPS at Triple-A Albuquerque) might head to the big club, as could infielder Luis Cruz (.995 OPS).

If the Dodgers wanted to get crazy, they could bring up Double-A third baseman Pedro Baez (.838 OPS at Chattanooga), a once-highly regarded prospect who has been beset by injuries.

Update: Gurnick now writes that Uribe “was examined by the Brewers’ team doctor on Thursday and will not see a specialist in Houston, as was considered.”

Mar 11

Fields emerges as leading Spring Training underdog

Cubs at Dodgers, 12:05 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., DH
Mark Ellis, 2B
James Loney, 1B
Jerry Sands, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Trent Oeltjen, RF
Tim Federowicz, C
Justim Sellers, SS
Matt Angle, CF
(Ted Lilly, P)

Though I’m not wishing to take away anything away from Cory Sullivan, whose ninth-inning grand slam lifted the Dodgers to a 10-6 victory over the White Sox late Saturday, I find myself thinking more this morning about Josh Fields.

No matter what he does in the spring, Sullivan is a 32-year-old fringe outfielder on a team with several stronger candidates. Never say never, but he remains a longshot to make a difference to the Dodgers and a much safer bet to become a Jason Romano-like footnote.

Fields, on the other hand, is still only 29 (younger than A.J. Ellis, for example), and he plays a position where the Dodgers are incredibly thin: third base. He also has power: 34 home runs in 713 major-league at-bats. That doesn’t mean he’s still not ultimately a Hector Gimenez in disguise, but there is a greater chance for Fields to mean something to the team.

The bar at third base for the Dodgers is so, so low: Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr., Adam Kennedy. Fields is 7 for 11 with three extra-base hits so far in the spring, and if he keeps that up, you can see where he might play his way into the 25th spot on the roster and earn some starts at third base (and at first base against right-handed pitching, with Jerry Sands getting more seasoning in the minors).

Again, I’m not getting my hopes up that Fields is anything more than a 2012 version of Corey Smith, who went 7 for 12 last year in March and then disappeared. I’m also not convinced that his shaky glove (that includes 24 errors and negative Ultimate Zone Rating in 158 career games at third base) wouldn’t undermine his contributions at the plate. But I do know that the Dodgers need all the help they can get at the position, and that they would be much better off if Uribe were their top utility infielder instead of a primary starter at third base.

It can all all apart in a minute, but for now, Fields is one unexpected Spring Training sensation that I’m not going to reflexively dismiss, but rather will keep an eye on.

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Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers a status update on the Dodger ownership race, a subject that I find myself with no desire to cover, despite its huge importance.