SAN FRANCISCO -- Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly acknowledged that Alex Guerrero has expressed some puzzlement to assistant hitting coach John Valentin about why his hot start to the season hasn’t earned him more playing time.
“He probably has some trouble understanding all of it, which is fine,” Mattingly said. “You want them to want to play.”
For the moment, however, Mattingly said the team plans to stick with Juan Uribe as its primary third baseman with both Guerrero and Justin Turner spelling him. Guerrero, who started Sunday’s game at third base, is off to a torrid start, batting .438 and slugging 1.125 in eight games. Turner was the Dodgers’ best reserve player last season, when he batted .340.
Mattingly acknowledged the team has kicked around the idea of making a switch at third base, but isn’t quite ready to make that move permanent. Uribe is batting .229 without an RBI but he is the team’s best defensive third baseman. Guerrero was a shortstop until last season and he still is considered a defensive liability, though less so at third base than second base.
“We’ve played how many games?” Mattingly said. “I just don’t think we’re ready to go in a whole other direction. You could very easily say [Turner] should be playing. I just think we’re a better club right now, but you’re not going to be hard-headed.”
The other factor keeping Guerrero on the bench: He appears to be good at it. He has already hit two pinch-hit home runs and driven in five runs in just seven at-bats. That’s not easy to do. His ultra-aggressive hitting approach may be well-suited to pinch hitting.
“Pinch hitters usually have pretty good strokes and he’s a guy who I think is pretty sound mechanically,” Mattingly said. “Guys who have good swings are usually good pinch hitters if they are in that aggressive mode.”
Mattingly said he got the all-clear from trainer Stan Conte to use catcher A.J. Ellis in an emergency catching situation. Ellis took a deflected pitch off his right hand Wednesday night. X-rays proved negative. Mattingly said the team contemplated getting a catcher here from Nashville, where Triple-A Oklahoma City was playing, but decided against it. If Ellis can’t go, Scott Van Slyke would be the emergency catcher, Mattingly said.
Mattingly said the team did not file a protest over what it viewed as interference by Giants third-base coach Roberto Kelly on pinch runner Gregor Blanco Wednesday. The club has 24 hours to file such a petition, but it would most likely be unsuccessful since the rule is open to the umpires’ interpretation.