Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsFixme

He's on Hot Seat at Hot Corner

Dodgers: Beltre is still struggling with the bat and the club might be forced to make a change at third base soon.

July 14, 2002|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers don't want to make major changes in a tight National League West race, but struggling third baseman Adrian Beltre is forcing their hand.

Talent and potential aren't enough in July when the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants are turning up the heat, prompting difficult decisions for Manager Jim Tracy and General Manager Dan Evans.

The Diamondbacks applied more pressure with a 7-5 victory Saturday before 33,994 at Dodger Stadium, taking their third in a row in the series and retaking the division lead from the Dodgers, who have dropped a season-high four in a row.

Beltre singled in three at-bats to raise his average to .236, and that's probably not going to cut it much longer, even though he is still the club's best option at third. Evans has spoken with other clubs in an attempt to bolster the position, baseball sources said, inquiring about Edgardo Alfonzo of the New York Mets.

The Dodgers hope Beltre begins to meet their high expectations, because they need something from him or someone else at third with their first playoff berth in six years at stake.

"I'm not going to go out there and kid myself, because I know I'm not doing good right now," Beltre said. "I would like to be out there every day, but if [Tracy] has to make some decisions, he's the boss. There's nothing I can do about it.

"He doesn't have to ask me, he doesn't have to ask [anybody]. He makes the decisions, so what can I do about it? I can be happy, I can be mad, whatever, but things are not going to change. He makes the lineup."

Tracy continues to preach patience, but his is running thin.

"We are 91 games into a season of which we are involved in a playoff situation, as we sit here and speak, so production becomes necessary," Tracy said. "We need production, because we're interested in playing baseball in October."

Beltre hasn't produced consistently since batting .304 in April. He batted .207 in May, .205 in June and is at .235 this month. Beltre has eight home runs, 31 runs batted in and a .287 on-base percentage, prompting Tracy to bat him eighth.

"You continue to encourage him, continue to send him out there and continue to play him," Tracy said. "He has more at-bats [330] and plate appearances [360] than anyone else on the ballclub. I don't know what else you could do. I really don't."

The Dodgers thought so much of Beltre that they falsified documents, violating major league rules, to sign him at 15. He made his big-league debut at 19 in 1998, and appeared to be on the verge of stardom after batting .290 with 20 homers, 30 doubles and 85 RBIs in 2000.

However, at 23, Beltre seems to be regressing. He played in only 126 games last season after an appendectomy and a second surgery for an infection that caused him to lose 30 pounds, and is still working his way back.

The Dodgers insist they are not ready to give up on Beltre, whom sources said they would have to include in any deal for an impact hitter, such as Alfonzo. They're less emphatic about keeping him in the lineup.

"Just as Trace did with me last year, there were games where he looked at matchups and played [Paul] Lo Duca and [Dave Hansen] sometimes, and it's not just to single out one or two guys," first baseman Eric Karros said. "The bottom line is, if you're producing you'll be run out there. If you're not, we've got to go with the hot hand. Trace has got a responsibility to the whole organization. We're well into the season now, so we'll see how it goes."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|