Mark Ellis’s return could bring an end to Cruuuuuz-mania

It took the Dodgers ten days to place Dodger second baseman Mark Ellis on the disabled list for his strained right quadriceps suffered on April 26. Why the delay? According to manager Don Mattingly it was an injury that was initially thought to be minor – one of those so-called “day-to-day” things.

Unfortunately, by waiting almost two weeks to place Ellis on the DL, the Dodgers rolled into San Francisco to face the first place Giants not only one-man short with Adrian Gonzalez on the bench with a strained trapezius (neck), but now with Marl Ellis and his bad quad – both occupying valuable roster spots. Although AGon’s injury was, in fact, day-to-day and manageable, Ellis’s was not. The results were almost predictable – the Giants swept the Dodgers and lost Hanley Ramirez (hamstring) and Jerry Hairston Jr. (groin) in the process.

After being totally humiliated at the hands of the Giants, the Dodgers limped (literally) into Dodger Stadium only to be swept again by the Diamondbacks and losing the first of three to the lowly Marlins. The Dodgers had hit rock bottom by losing eight straight.

While trying to remain somewhat competitive with what he had to work with and with the eventual call-ups of Dee Gordon, Tim Federowicz and Scott Van Slyke from Triple-A, Mattingly began mixing and matching his daily line-ups by utilizing a combination of Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Juan Uribe. However, noticeably missing from Mattingly’s M.A.S.H. unit was the struggling (and I’m being kind here) Luis Cruz.

Very little has gone right for Luis Cruz this season. (Photo credit - Jon SooHoo)

After a great finish to the 2012 season, nothing has gone right for Luis Cruz this season. (Photo credit – Jon SooHoo)

After his feel-good Cinderella story in the final three months of 2012 and an impressive spring training 2013, Cruz was a lock to be the Dodgers everyday shortstop (until Hanley Ramirez returned from the DL for his injured thumb) and then the everyday third baseman thereafter. But when the starting gates to the 2013 season opened, Cruz never left the blocks. And while his defensive skills have never been in question, Cruz’s pathetic triple slash of .087/.111/.087 is, quite frankly, unacceptable and inexcusable for a major league baseball player – except perhaps for a starting pitcher.

At what now seems like a reoccurring theme for the Dodgers, Mark Ellis began rehabbing within days of his injury and for the past week has been doing everything – including running at full speed. And when the Dodgers boarded their charter flight around midnight on Wednesday night for their all-night flight to Atlanta to begin a three-game series with the red hot Braves on Friday, Mark Ellis was on the flight with plans to make the two hour drive to Chattanooga for what is expected to be a two-game rehab assignment with the Double-A Lookouts on Friday and Saturday. Every indication is that Ellis will then rejoin the Dodgers for Sunday’s series finale against the Braves.

Mark Ellis has been working out at second base every day for the past two weeks and is only days away from returning to the Dodger line-up. (Photo credit - Ron Cervenka)

Mark Ellis has been working out at second base every day for the past two weeks and is only days away from returning to the Dodger line-up. (Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)

The burning question of course is: Who goes to clear a roster spot for Ellis?

It’s pretty safe to say that Nick Punto and Juan Uribe aren’t going anywhere, as both are playing exceptionally well defensively at third base and both are hitting well (now there’s something you never thought you’d hear about Juan Uribe); and it’s also pretty safe to say that Skip Schumaker isn’t going anywhere either, as his bat is heating up and he can spell Ellis at second base and play the outfield as well. This, of course, leaves Luis Cruz as the odd man out.

Granted, the Dodgers could option Scott Van Slyke or Tim Federowicz back to Triple-A to make room for Ellis, but losing either of these guys takes away a power bat off of the Dodger bench – something that they have desperately needed all season long. They could also designate equally poor hitting back-up catcher Ramon Hernandez for assignment and slide FedEx into that role (as he should have been all season long), or they can simply do what is inevitable - designate Luis Cruz for assignment since he is out of options.

There isn’t a player in the Dodger clubhouse or a Dodger fan anywhere who doesn’t absolutely love Luis Cruz and his infectious smile, but the cold hard fact is that he is killing this team with his incessant pop outs, and there is absolutely no indication whatsoever that he is improving.

Making room for Mark Ellis on the 25-man roster isn’t the only concern facing the Dodgers on the near horizon – they will also have to make room for Jerry Hairston Jr. in the coming days and (most likely) for Scott Elbert in the coming weeks. Fortunately, both are on the 40-man roster, so a corresponding roster move is not needed there.

I imagine that the Dodgers will hold onto Luis Cruz until the very last possible moment, something that Dodger GM Ned Colletti has a fondness for doing, but the sad reality is that Cruz has become a liability to the team and is now nothing more than a roadblock on the Dodger roster.

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6 Responses to “Mark Ellis’s return could bring an end to Cruuuuuz-mania”

  1. bigbluebird says:

    Ron, I think you are right. This is actually the best thing for Cruz right now is to be sent down. He is getting fewer and fewer opportunities. I would doubt whether a team would pick him up right now. He needs a change of scenery and an opportunity to refocus. If he isn’t picked up by another team, the rarefied air of Albuquerque would do his bat well.

    People in baseball circles in Mexico like him a lot. He is a nice guy and it has been painful to see him lose his swing so quickly this spring. When he was first called up, I think we were some of his first to notice and followed him on twitter. We happened to be in St. Louis last year when the Dodgers were in town and went to a couple of the games. We sent him a message on twitter wishing him good luck and that we would be at the game. He had a great series and even responded back. Last year we were some of his first followers on twitter and now he has over 28,000 followers and even a couple of unofficial Cochito Cruz twitter accounts.

    My son’s fantasy baseball team on ESPN is called “Cochito Cruz Fan Club.” He kept him on the roster but on the bench for quite a while until about 3 weeks ago when he came to the realization that it was time to part ways. He may make a cutthroat GM some day — pretty hard decision for an 8 year old when your team is named after the player you are cutting but then again he is in second place!

  2. MFGRREP says:

    I agree, Cruz needs a wake up call and if he can clear waivers a trip to ABQ could do the trick.

    On another note Ron I question your comment “After being totally humiliated at the hands of the Giants” it seems a bit harsh. Yes we were swept, but we lost 2 of the three with walk off’s and all three games were decided by 1 run. Just seems like we came up short on some very close games. Yes we should have won a couple of those but at no point were we blown out or out classed.

    This Dodger team has to turn the tide, but IMO we have the players that can do it, if they can just stay healthy and get the bats going!!

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