Dodgers shortstop Luis Cruz tosses the ball to second baseman Mark Ellis… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
When your offense is struggling and suddenly the lineup features four new starters, then maybe you figure there's an intentional shakeup going on.
On Sunday, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly penciled a different starting eight for the series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but said only one move was really about a struggling player.
New to the lineup Sunday were Nick Punto at second, Jerry "Michael Jackson" Hairston Jr. in right, Juan Uribe at third and Tim Federowicz at catcher. Sitting were Mark Ellis, Andre Ethier, Luis Cruz and A.J. Ellis.
But Mattingly said all but the move of Cruz were previously planned to give starters rest and keep others fresh.
Cruz has started the season without a hit in 17 at-bats, however, and Mattingly felt he needed a break.
"Guys not getting out early, one of the things I do worry about is trying to get out of that hole," Mattingly said. "There's always going to be a period in the season where you hit one of those spells. Luis is just having it right now, right out of the gate. And that kind of builds on you. Mentally, it kind of drains, kind of wears on you. So, mentally, he needs to go and put those behind him.
"I'm sure he'd like to go back and start over, but that doesn’t happen. Those 16, 18 at-bats, as a player you have to put those behind you. You can't let 16 affect your next 300 or your next 50."
After Saturday’s game, Cruz admitted that he felt like he was rushing things at the plate, and seemed clearly frustrated by his start.
"He needs a day to sit there and watch, a day he can just back off a little bit," Mattingly said. "Where he can hopefully see the forest because he was getting too close to those trees. He just couldn’t see his way out."
Mattingly had previously planned to rest the other three, looking long-term, and said Ethier was not sitting because Pittsburgh was starting left-hander Jeff Locke.
"It's not that [Ethier] needed a day, I just want to keep him fresh," he said. "We have two [lefties] in San Diego coming and I wanted to give him a breather. It's not a day off. We're going to use him [Sunday] if we get to a spot.
"But just from seeing Andre over the years, I know if I can keep him fresh and keep him stronger, he's better. Kind of the same with Mark. He's really a guy who's important to me -- they're all important to me -- but a guy you want to keep him on the field and as fresh as possible."
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