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Dodgers looking for lineup answers in 9-5 loss to Mariners

March 02, 2013|By Kevin Baxter
  • Don Mattingly is still in the process of figuring out his opening day lineup.
Don Mattingly is still in the process of figuring out his opening day lineup. (Matt York / Associated Press )

PEORIA, Ariz. — Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly can read a calendar so he's well aware his opening day lineup isn't due for a month.

"I don't have to make it out right now," he joked Saturday before the Dodgers went out and kicked the ball around in a sloppy 9-5 Cactus League loss here to the Seattle Mariners.

That Mattingly has time is a good thing because the Dodgers' batting order may suddenly have been thrown into a bit of disarray.

With Carl Crawford's surgically repaired elbow needing at least another week of rest, his availability for April 1 is up in the air. So now the Dodgers need a starting left fielder and a leadoff hitter -- not necessarily in that order.

In the outfield, Mattingly said he has been planning to use left-hand-hitting Skip Schumaker and righty-swinging Jerry Hairston to spell his regulars this season. So until Crawford is 100%, he can use the two utilitymen as a platoon in left field.

“If you’re going to ask me today, those two guys -- knowing that they’re going to be here if they’re healthy — that kind of gives me a left-right situation,” Mattingly said.

As for who bats first, that's a bit more complicated. Only one team in the majors got less production from the No. 1 spot in its batting order than the Dodgers, whose leadoff hitters batted .226 with a .281 on-base percentage last season. So even though Crawford has put up his best career numbers as a No. 3 hitter, Mattingly sees him as the solution to the Dodgers' woes at the top of his order.

As for alternatives, well how about Hanley Ramirez? The former National League batting champion has more career plate appearances and better numbers -- .309 average, .385 OBP -- in the leadoff spot than anywhere else in the order. And just to make sure his manager gets the point Ramirez, batting leadoff, singled and scored in the first inning Saturday, then walked and scored again in the third.

Ideally, Mattingly would like to use his shortstop in the middle of the order, hitting between left-handers Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier. But he may not have that luxury if Crawford is out for any length of time.

“If I hit Hanley first, it really put me in a bind,” Mattingly said. “I can’t really sit here and say, 'this guy’s hitting leadoff.’ So that’s kind of like saying closer by committee. I’m almost leading off right now by committee.”

For his part, Crawford says his optimistic he'll be in uniform and in the lineup when the season starts.

As for Saturday's game, things went south quickly for the Dodgers after Ramirez helped them get a 3-0 lead after 2 1/2 innings. Luis Cruz's second error of the spring at third led to an unearned run in the third. Then another Cruz misplay — which wasn't ruled an error — in the fourth cost the Dodgers an apparent double play and opened the door to a two-run inning.

"It's been a little bit rough," Mattingly said of Cruz's defense.

Two more errors and a wild pitch led to three more Seattle runs in the seventh.

"It looks sloppy," Mattingly said. "So it's something that you continue to work on. It is spring. We're a month away. There's going to be a lot more ground balls taken. Guys catching the ball, that's not something that goes away."

On the positive side, Ethier reached base three times, going two for two with a triple and getting nicked by a pitch. On the mound Chris Capuano and Chad Billingsley, who are both competing for a spot in the rotation, each gave up three runs although only two of Capuano's were earned.

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