Sarah's Take: Competition for third base
With LaRoche out of action, Garciaparra could get nod
The competition for the third-base job has ended unless the Dodgers find another player. Andy LaRoche tore the collateral ligament in his right thumb and needs surgery. He will be out for eight to 10 weeks. Despite being hit on the wrist earlier in the same game, Nomar Garciaparra appears to be the Dodgers' third baseman on Opening Day.
Before Spring Training started, every Dodgers fan waited to see if LaRoche was ready for the Major League level. When manager Joe Torre told Dodgers fans that he likes to go with experience, I thought Garciaparra would get the nod to start at third base.
Although I normally prefer that the Dodgers go with young players, I agree that Garciaparra should be the Opening Day third baseman. I have seen LaRoche play third base, and he didn't impress me. He didn't make an error, but I wasn't comfortable with his fielding.
After LaRoche's performance during the Baseball World Cup, the Dodgers thought he was ready because he hit many home runs. When I saw him hitting with the Dodgers last September, I didn't like what I saw. He was tentative. Instead of choosing his pitch to hit, he took too many pitches and looked overwhelmed. Most rookies don't want to walk, but LaRoche wanted to walk because he looked like he didn't believe in his ability to hit in the Major Leagues.
Though Baseball America thought LaRoche was one of the fabulous Jacksonville five in 2005, he hasn't performed like the others, Russell Martin, James Loney, Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton. I have wanted the Dodgers to trade the young third baseman.
This is the third spring that the Dodgers have wanted to have LaRoche be their third baseman, and he hasn't performed the way he should be to make the team. The first spring he couldn't hit anything and his defense lacked. During the season, he injured his shoulder and didn't want to have surgery. His poor performance didn't earn him a September call up.
Last spring he was battling with Wilson Betemit, who had an awful spring. If LaRoche could stay healthy, he would have earned the job. However, a bulging disk in his back limited his playing time. LaRoche started and spent most of the season in Las Vegas.
Now he has injured his thumb while catching a ball. To me, LaRoche is injury prone. Both his shoulder and back injuries can linger.
Although Garciaparra has had many injuries over his 10-year career, he had none before the age of 27. This spring he is healthy and showing he can still hit. On Friday before he left with a minor injury that will be fine after a day or so, he hit a home run. Though people worry about Garciaparra's throwing arm because he has a weird throwing angle, he didn't make many errors when he played third base last season.
Before LaRoche got hurt, Torre was considering making Garciaparra a utility player. With his superb athletic ability, Garciaparra would make a great utility player.
I would like to see the Dodgers try Delwyn Young at third base. Though they think his defense is lacking, he might make a good third baseman. He is not overly tall, which is ideal for a third baseman. Since the Dodgers made him an outfielder, he must have a strong throwing arm. He has the ability to field ground balls since he has been a second baseman. Every Dodger fan knows Young can hit.
Tony Abreu has finally played his first game of the spring because he has been recovering from offseason surgery. If he can play, he is a decent third baseman. His speed will help the Dodgers, because speed never has a slump.
Because Jeff Kent has a strained hamstring, it complicates the situation. Though nobody thinks he will miss Opening Day, at 40, no one knows how fast he will heal. In late July 2007, he missed a week and a half with a similar injury. If Kent can't go on Opening Day, it opens the door for another young player.
Although it is a shame about LaRoche's injury, it makes another opportunity for another player to play. It seems cruel if LaRoche doesn't get the opportunity to show the Dodgers and their fans what he can do. However, this is baseball. One player's misfortune turns into another's opportunity. With or without LaRoche, the Dodgers will be OK at third base.
Sarah D. Morris is the editor of Sarah's Dodger Place. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.