Four-outfielder issue actually a huge asset

PHOENIX -- For months, it has been out there and, at times, the question has been -- absurdly -- posed as a dilemma. How will manager Don Mattingly deal with having four everyday outfielders for three spots?

First of all, it has happened for only 10 innings out of the 152 games the Dodgers have played this season. Matt Kemp was injured in both games the Dodgers' four outfielders were all healthy, first aggravating his shoulder during an at-bat in San Francisco and then spraining his ankle sliding into home in Washington.

Second, the last thing to call it is a dilemma. When the playoffs start, it could be a massive advantage for the Dodgers. They have two right-handed hitters and two left-handed hitters, allowing them to line up favorable matchups for every game. Should they advance to the World Series, it will give them a bonafide threat at designated hitter that so few National League teams have.

So, yeah, it's not a problem.

"I like that, obviously," Mattingly said.

One would hope that, should the Dodgers have a legitimate shot at a World Series ring, the player who is benched that night would have the good taste to hide his disappointment.

"Somebody's not going to be happy," Mattingly said, "but at that point, you can't worry about that too much."

The St. Louis Cardinals' Shelby Miller has held right-handed hitters to a .202 batting average. Kemp would quite likely sit that game or, possibly, Yasiel Puig if his slump drags on that long. Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Francisco Liriano has held left-handers to a .213 average. Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier would miss that game.

"When Matt wasn't part of the equation, it puts you in a little bit of a bind with the lefties and it showed. I don't think we were really successful off lefties in general," Mattingly said.

The Dodgers have batted .258 against lefties this year.

It could be a matter of days before the Dodgers have all four players healthy. Ethier (ankle) is expected back some time next week. Crawford was back in the lineup Wednesday after missing time because of lower-back tightness.

How was Crawford's back feeling?

"Good enough," he said. "You've just got to do what you can this time of year."

* Hanley Ramirez was held out of the lineup, but Mattingly said he didn't re-injure his tight hamstring. Mattingly said it was part of the pre-planned program for Ramirez, who likely will play one out of every four games or so. They're trying to keep him sharp while avoiding a major injury.

"Play a day, off a few days, try to keep him sharp," Mattingly said. "I don't think anybody feels like Hanley's 100 percent."

Here are lineups for a game in which the Dodgers can clinch the NL West:

Los Angeles

1. Yasiel Puig RF

2. Carl Crawford LF

3. Michael Young 3B

4. Adrian Gonzalez 1B

5. Matt Kemp CF

6. Mark Ellis 2B

7. Nick Punto SS

8. Tim Federowicz C

9. Stephen Fife RHP


1. Adam Eaton LF

2. A.J. Pollock CF

3. Paul Goldschmidt 1B

4. Aaron Hill 2B

5. Miguel Montero C

6. Matt Davidson 3B

7. Gerardo Parra RF

8. Chris Owings SS

9. Brandon McCarthy RHP