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Dodgers' Jamey Carroll prepares for a variety of roles

Veteran is always at the ready to play several infield positions and even left field, making him a valuable asset for the team.

March 16, 2011|By Jim Peltz
  • Jamey Carroll versatility is one of the reasons why he will be a valuable player for the Dodgers in 2011.
Jamey Carroll versatility is one of the reasons why he will be a valuable… (Rob Tringali / Getty Images )

Reporting from Phoenix — Jamey Carroll is seldom given to hyperbole. He answers questions in a thoughtful, measured manner, including a recent one about whether his age could be a liability this year.

"I don't feel like I'm 37, I don't feel like I play like I'm 37," the veteran utility player said. "So I just keep plugging away until something happens where I can't do it."

When and where he'll play? Now those are entirely different questions.

As the Dodgers begin the homestretch of spring training after a day off Wednesday, Carroll isn't sure exactly what his role will be once the regular season starts March 31. What he does know is that he's likely to be a valuable part of the club for the second consecutive year.

Carroll emerged as a surprise asset for the Dodgers last season when regular starters such as shortstop Rafael Furcal and third baseman Casey Blake were injured or required rest.

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Carroll played in 133 games and did so quite ably, batting .291 (third-highest on the team), leading the club with a .379 on-base percentage and making only six errors. And signs already are pointing to Carroll's being needed again.

Blake, 37, is sidelined because of spinal inflammation and listed as day to day. Juan Uribe, 31, whom the Dodgers acquired in the off-season, is expected to play second base but can move to third base if Blake can't play or is being rested.

Who would cover for Uribe at second base in that scenario? Probably Carroll, according to Manager Don Mattingly.

"In that situation, Juan's probably been over there [at third base] more, Jamey's more of the middle guy," Mattingly said.

And if Uribe or Furcal, 33 — who has a history of back trouble — should get injured or need a rest, Carroll probably would step in for them as well.

"I have to work at [all three positions] and be ready," Carroll said. "You can't predict the unpredictable, so you've got to be ready for anything."

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Don't count him out of left field, either. Carroll played there in a few games last season, and that position appears to be the most fluid spot on the team.

The 5-foot-9 Carroll, a right-handed batter who previously played for the Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Indians, among other teams, is beginning his ninth full season in the big leagues.

His work ethic, reliability and serious-minded approach to the game frequently earn him labels such as being "a gamer" or "gritty." They also earned him the Roy Campanella Award from his teammates last year for his "spirit and leadership."

Former Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who had a tradition of letting players manage one or two of the final games of the season, chose Carroll for one last year.

Indeed, Carroll, who is going into the last year of a two-year, $3.85-million contract with the Dodgers, has said he might want to coach or manage after his playing days.

Spring training is busy for Carroll as he shifts from one infield position to another in practice.

"The last thing I want to do is not be ready for a situation and not be able to do my job," he said.

But despite the addition of Uribe, Blake's latest setback and other developments in camp, Carroll said this spring training is no different for him than before.

"With my job, I never know what it's going to entail, so I wouldn't know how to approach it any differently," he said. "I can't predict if I'm going to play 162 games or 50 games, because you never know what happens.

"Usually, if I'm playing a lot that means something has happened and it's usually not good."

Perhaps. But, Mattingly said, "I don't mind seeing a lot of him. We see him [playing] all over" the infield again this year.

"That's the way I would like to be using him."

james.peltz@latimes.com

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