The Dodgers were prepared for the possibility that Justin Sellers wouldn't hit. What they didn't expect was that he wouldn't be able to field, either.
Selected to replace sidelined Hanley Ramirez as the Dodgers' opening-day shortstop because of his defensive expertise, Sellers made two crucial seventh-inning throwing errors in the Dodgers' 3-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
The mistakes resulted in two runs for the Giants, who turned a one-run lead into the three-run margin and sent South Korean rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu to a loss in his major league debut.
With Ramirez not expected to return from a thumb operation until mid-May, Manager Don Mattingly again finds himself in a dilemma about what to do with the middle of his infield.
For now, Mattingly said Sellers will remain his primary shortstop.
"Nothing happened in that inning that changed anything," Mattingly said.
When Ramirez went down in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic last month, Mattingly acknowledged he wasn't enamored with any of the Dodgers' options. His initial instinct was to move third baseman Luis Cruz, who was steady but unspectacular there in 23 games last season. That would have resulted in a rotation at third base consisting of Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Nick Punto.
But the team's brain trust decided not to move Cruz, opting for the light-hitting Sellers at shortstop because of his superior defensive range.
Of course, reaching the ball wasn't Sellers' problem Tuesday. Throwing it was.
His off-line throw allowed Joaquin Arias to start the seventh inning. That was followed up by a single by Andres Torres.
Ryu got Brandon Crawford to ground out to first base, which advanced the runners to second and third.
At this point, Mattingly called on Ronald Belisario to face pitcher Madison Bumgarner.
Bumgarner hit a routine bouncer, which Sellers snagged. But his throw home sailed over the head of catcher A.J. Ellis, permitting Arias to score and increasing the Giants' lead to 2-0.
The throwing error was compounded by Belisario's failure to cover home plate, which resulted in Torres also scoring. The Dodgers were down, 3-0.
"Just trying to make something happen that wasn't there," Sellers said. "I rushed it a little bit, forced it. We're struggling at the plate right there, I've got to save a run."
Sellers came to realize he made an error in judgment after speaking with Mattingly, who told him he should have settled for the out at first base.
"We have three innings," Mattingly said. "I want him to have enough confidence in our offense that we're going to be able to score some runs."
Sellers' belief that another run would doom the Dodgers to defeat was understandable, considering how Bumgarner was pitching.
Bumgarner was arguably as dominant as Clayton Kershaw was in the Dodgers' season-opening victory the previous day, limiting the home team to two hits over eight innings and retiring 18 consecutive batters in one stretch.
Bumgarner didn't have a three-ball count until the last batter of the sixth inning. Of his 101 pitches, 76 were strikes.
Sergio Romo saved the game with a perfect ninth inning.
Ryu lived dangerously in his 61/3 innings, but pitched well enough to win had he pitched opposite of almost anyone else.
Ryu scattered 10 hits, but forced the Giants to hit into three double plays. That limited the damage over the first six innings to a solitary run, which was scored in the fourth inning when Arias singled in Buster Posey.
All of the hits charged to Ryu were singles. He didn't issue a walk.