Each time a gap has emerged in the Dodgers' infield this season, Jamey Carroll has seemed to ably fill it.
After playing 25 consecutive games at shortstop for the injured Rafael Furcal, the 36-year-old utility fielder lately has filled in at third base for Casey Blake, who has been sidelined by back spasms.
Entering Saturday night's game, Carroll was nine for 16 (.563) in his prior four games and was hitting .306 overall in 47 games. He has been particularly effective against right-handed pitching, batting .351.
"I'm not going to say he's going to hit .300 [all season] but he knows how to play and he's really been a big 'get' for us," Manager Joe Torre said.
Now in his ninth big league season, Carroll was acquired over the winter and competed this spring for the regular second baseman's job that ultimately was won by 24-year-old Blake DeWitt.
But Carroll has played nearly regularly anyway because of the injuries. During his stint filling in for Furcal, Carroll batted .284 with 10 runs batted in, and the Dodgers were 17-8 in that span.
"Obviously you don't want things like that to happen," Carroll said of the injuries, "because it means something has gone wrong somewhere along the way, but that's what I try to prepare for and do well while I can."
Carroll — who has played every position in his career except first base, pitcher and catcher — said playing on a fairly consistent basis also helps his batting, but "it's my job to play those positions and play them well any time I'm asked."
Torre said Saturday that Blake "feels better today, which is a good sign," but that the Dodgers would have to wait until Sunday "to see if he continues to get better."
If not, that could mean putting Blake on the disabled list. "If he goes backwards or still feels restricted in any way I'm sure that's something we'll have to consider," Torre said. "We got [Carroll] as a backup player and now, with the uncertainty of Casey Blake, he's going to see a lot more action."
Manny Ramirez has been struggling at the plate, but Torre said he has no intention of pushing Ramirez below the third and fourth spots in the order.
"I don't think so, he's a threat," Torre said. "You sit there in that other dugout, you know that [he's] in there, you know he's capable of doing something. If he's going to play he's going to have to be … in that third and fourth area."
Ramirez batted in the cleanup spot again Saturday night.
Ramirez was batting .274 entering the game with four home runs and 25 RBIs in 37 games. But he had hit only .194 since returning from the disabled list May 8 after he missed 14 games because of a strained right calf.
Regardless, "I'm not at a point where I want to do anything different," Torre said.
Prior to Saturday's game, the Dodgers' bullpen had not given up an earned run in 22 1/3 innings. … Game On Dude, a horse partially owned by Torre, finished fourth in the Belmont Stakes.
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