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The Dodgers, the mystery of Juan Uribe and the third base shuffle

April 26, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Juan Uribe hits an RBI single in the ninth inning of the Dodgers' 3-2 win over the New York Mets on Thursday.
Juan Uribe hits an RBI single in the ninth inning of the Dodgers' 3-2… (Justin Lane / EPA )

What to make of the mysterious Juan Uribe?

The last two years, of course, the answer would have been not much. Between injuries and his knack of swinging from the heels, over the last two seasons Uribe hit .191 for the Dodgers, with corresponding lowly on-base (.280) and slugging (.306) percentages.

At first glance early this season, it seems the same ol' Uribe. He’s batting .190 and has no real specific role.

Only there’s this: Uribe has a .414 on-base and .476 slugging percentages. That gives him an on-base/slugging percentage mark of .890, second on the team only to Adrian Gonzalez.

These are some strange numbers. His on-base percentage has been helped by a surprising eight walks. He had only 13 all of last season. His slugging percentage is magnified because two of his four hits are home runs.

What do you do with this guy?

Since Manager Don Mattingly admitted third baseman Luis Cruz has “lost confidence,” Uribe figures to get some spot starts. Mattingly is going to his infamous “matchups” approach at third.

That gives Mattingly plenty of options, if none particularly thrilling. Mattingly can pick from Jerry Hairston Jr., Nick Punto, Uribe and Cruz at third. Even shortstop Justin Sellers has played some third, as of course, has Hanley Ramirez, who is expected back from thumb surgery next week.

That Uribe is in the mix at all is actually improvement from his lost situation before spring started. He was groomed to back up Gonzalez at first, and give the Dodgers a hint of power off the bench. A really small hint, but a hint nonetheless.

He has other value. He may have limited range, but otherwise Uribe remains an excellent defensive player. He made a nice stop Thursday in the victory over the Mets, plus he walked three times (corrected from two, guess I'm still having trouble believing it) and hit an infield single that scored what held up as the winning run.

While Mattingly uses the carousel approach at third, Uribe and his curious numbers are at least a player. How serious a player, only he can answer. The walks indicate greater plate discipline, so there is that. There’s also the .190 batting average.

Hey, nothing like a good mystery.

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