Casey Blake on DL; Rafael Furcal back
ANAHEIM -- Dee Gordon, the highly touted and acrobatic rookie shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers who appeared on Saturday night to be headed back to the minor leagues to clear a roster spot because veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal was coming off the disabled list, instead received a last-minute reprieve on Sunday when third baseman Casey Blake went onto the 15-day DL for the third time this season. Blake is battling an arthritic condition in his neck.
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However, the words of manager Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti after the move was announced left little doubt that Gordon is headed back to Triple-A Albuquerque sometime in the near future, possibly as early as Monday.
"Obviously, we don't want Dee to be here and not play," Mattingly said. "I know Dee has come up with a splash, and everybody is excited about Dee. But when Fookie really gets rolling, that is really when our team plays its best baseball. Raffy is our shortstop. Dee is a player who is going to get better and who is a big part of the future of the organization, and it won't hurt him to ... "
At that point, Mattingly cut himself off, but when asked if he expected to see another roster move in the next day or so, he said, "We could."
Colletti, when asked how long he is comfortable keeping both Furcal and Gordon on the big league roster if Furcal is getting the vast majority of the starts, said, "Not long."
Colletti wouldn't say how quickly a move would be made, but it could be simply a matter of how quickly another player can get to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers begin their final homestand of the first half on Monday night against the New York Mets. The most likely candidate probably is infielder Russ Mitchell, who isn't nearly the high-valued prospect that Gordon is and thus wouldn't have his development harmed by coming off the bench instead of getting regular at-bats.
However, DeJesus, who does have a limited amount of experience at third base, was pulled from Albuquerque's game at Omaha on Sunday night in the sixth inning with a stiff back.
Mitchell and Ivan De Jesus are the only infielders presently on the 40-man roster who aren't already in the majors, and given that Blake is the player the Dodgers are looking to replace, Mitchell is a better fit than De Jesus because he can play both corners.
Meanwhile, Mattingly slotted Furcal, who had been on the DL since June 4 with a strained left oblique, into the second spot in the order rather than his customary leadoff spot, where Furcal had hit in every game he had started this season. Furcal hit second seven times in 2010. The reason is that left fielder Tony Gwynn has sizzled in the leadoff spot over the past week, going 10 for 24 and reaching base six times in six plate appearances on Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels.
Mattingly also said he wanted to insert the switch-hitting Furcal between the lefty-hitting Gwynn and the lefty-hitting Andre Ethier. Furcal went 1-for-4 with a run scored in his return, but the Dodgers lost to the Angels 3-1 on Sunday night.
Blake has been playing with neck pain for several days and has been limited to some degree. Mattingly said it was in Blake's final at-bat on Saturday night, a sixth-inning strikeout, that he knew Blake couldn't continue. Blake had made a couple of dives on the infield on Friday night that apparently made the condition worse.
"He is going to get the cortisone again," Mattingly said. "We'll try to take advantage of the All-Star break and see what happens. ... There are certain movements he can't do. He has trouble with the backhand plays, he has trouble with putting his head straight up on popups, and on a (pitch) away from him, he can only get his head out so far."
Mattingly said he wasn't certain that rest will help the condition, but he did say he fully expects Blake to play again this season.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.