rom 1973 to 1981, the Dodgers enjoyed the most stable infield in the history of the game, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey forging the heart of some very good Dodgers teams. Those days are long gone. Turnover is the order of the day now and the Dodgers' infield has proven highly changeable. You might have forgotten by now, but Justin Sellers and Luis Cruz both started on Opening Day last season. Dee Gordon started two Opening Days ago. Jamey Carroll and Rafael Furcal were still around three Opening Days ago and two Blakes -- DeWitt and Casey -- were in the starting lineup to kick off 2010. And next season? While Adrian Gonzalez provides steady production and presence at first base and Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe both return, the Dodgers again will be dealing with uncertainty. They signed Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to be the team’s everyday second baseman, but the team has enough doubts about his ability to field the position steadily that it now says that will be an open competition this spring. Guerrero might even begin the season in the minor leagues. The Dodgers continue to try to convince Michael Young to put off retirement and return as a place-holder second baseman, bench contributor and veteran presence. With just 10 days to go before pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch, let’s explore five key questions: Will fielding be a problem? The Dodgers realize they don’t have the perfect formula. Ideally, your best fielders would be your shortstop and your second baseman and the guys on the corners, who see fewer chances, would provide power bats. The Dodgers have to hope that thunder up the middle doesn’t lead to a deluge of ground balls sneaking into the outfield. They have a shortstop, Ramirez, with 30-home run power who is, to put it kindly, a below-average fielder. They have a second baseman who is a mystery, particularly with his glove. Meanwhile, Uribe and Gonzalez are among the best fielders at their positions, but neither is much of a home run threat these days. “If you’re starting from a textbook and drawing up what you would want your team to be, you’d start with defense up the middle and want to have power on the corners , but that’s only one way to do it,” team president Stan Kasten said on 710 ESPNLA earlier this winter. “There are plenty of examples of teams who do it with a different model.” Just because the model is different doesn’t mean it won’t work, but it’s risky. The Dodgers have the luxury of playing in a stadium that forgives pitchers who allow fly balls, one of the reasons they can sacrifice some infield defense. The Ramirez-Guerrero tandem likely would be untenable in the AL East, for example. Is Guerrero ready? Nobody had ever heard of Miguel Rojas until about a month ago, when the Dodgers started dropping his name as a legitimate alternative at second base. Considering Rojas is a career .234 hitter in the minor leagues, that’s a pretty good clue they’re having their doubts about Guerrero’s readiness for Opening Day. Guerrero’s attempt at accelerating the learning curve transitioning from shortstop was derailed by hamstring injuries in the Dominican winter league. Officially, the Dodgers say Guerrero is “leading the pack,” in the competition to start at second base, but Rojas -- who spent six years in the Cincinnati Reds’ system -- is a defensive wizard who is in the process of moving from shortstop as well. He impressed Dodgers veterans and coaches with his nimble infield skills last spring. There is, however, good news. The Dodgers expect Guerrero to be an above-average offensive contributor when he’s ready and they have heard nothing but good things about the way he’s approaching the job. “He’s very mature, an incredibly hard worker with great makeup,” Kasten said.
Five questions about the Dodgers infield
ESPN | Jan 29