Dodgers liking Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, Luis Cruz at third

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When the Dodgers decided to put Hanley Ramirez back at shortstop upon acquiring from the Marlins, it had the looks of a temporary move, what with Dee Gordon set up as a long-term option at the position. However, as things stand now, the Dodgers are leaning towards leaving Ramirez at shortstop in 2013 and going with Luis Cruz at third base.

“Did you watch Cruz play,” GM Ned Colletti said.

It’s true that Cruz was a revelation after moving into the starting lineup. The 28-year-old hit .297/.322/.431 with six homers and 40 RBI in 283 at-bats. Prior to 2012, he had a .221/.275/.260 line and no homers in 154 major league at-bats.

The Dodgers will have a crowd of infielders under contract. Besides the likely starters in Ramirez, Cruz and second baseman Mark Ellis, the team also has Jerry Hairston Jr., Nick Punto and Juan Uribe all entering the final year of multiyear deals. Odds are that someone from that group — most likely Uribe — won’t fit on the Opening Day roster.

And it surely means that Gordon, who was handed a starting job and the leadoff spot this spring, will open next year in Triple-A.

Still, there’s one very interesting aspect to all of this, that being that Cruz is almost surely a better defensive shortstop than Ramirez. It was his primary position throughout his minor league career, and he had a reputation as a good-glove, no-hit guy in his younger days.

Given that Gordon still projects as the Dodgers’ long-term shortstop, it’d make a lot of sense to put Cruz back at shortstop to begin next year and let Hanley settle back in at third base. The Dodgers, though, seem content to wait and cross that bridge later.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.