Sarah's Take: Uribe leaves big gap in infield

Dodgers must find a way to replace third baseman's efficient bat, glove

Sarah's Take: Uribe leaves big gap in infield

When it appeared that the Los Angeles Dodgers would be at full strength for the first time this season on Tuesday, Juan Uribe, one of their best hitters, re-aggravated a hamstring pull and was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday. To fill Uribe's roster spot, the Dodgers promoted Erisbel Arruebarrena, a Cuban shortstop.

For his first two years with Los Angeles, Uribe was a disappointment. Various injuries marred his performance and limited his playing time. Many Dodgers fans thought the team would be better off if the team released him. General manager Ned Colletti hates eating lucrative contracts, and he did not get rid of Uribe.

Before the 2013 season, the Dodgers envisioned Uribe as a reserve. During Spring Training that year, Uribe proved to be healthy and possibly valuable to the team. In the first two months of the season, Uribe was a productive pinch-hitter and filled in for infielders who needed rest while Los Angeles had an unproductive third baseman.

Many people think the Dodgers' turnaround in the 2013 season came either when they promoted Yasiel Puig or when Hanley Ramirez came off the disabled list. But to me, the Dodgers began to win when Uribe became an everyday player.

Uribe gave the Dodgers Gold Glove Award-level defense at third, something that the team hadn't had since 2004 when Adrian Beltre left as a free agent. Uribe solidified the infield.

Before 2013, he was a free swinger, resulting in many strikeouts with an occasional home run. While working with hitting coach Mark McGwire, Uribe defined the strike zone better. He became a more selective hitter. The Dodgers had difficulty driving in runners in scoring position in '13, but Uribe usually found a way to capitalize on the scoring opportunities presented to him.

During the 2013 playoffs, Uribe had the biggest and the most dramatic home run that propelled the Dodgers into the National League Championship Series.

In the offseason, the biggest question surrounding the Dodgers was whether the team would retain the services of Uribe. In December, Colletti re-signed Uribe to a two-year contract. I thought it was the most important signing of the offseason.

Before Spring Training this season, many people were concerned about Uribe. They wondered if last year's performance was a fluke. No, it was not.

In April, Uribe was the most reliable hitter for the Dodgers. While he drove in runners in scoring position at the bottom of the lineup, he played excellent defense at third base. In May, although he cooled off a little offensively, he still produced.

Against the San Francisco Giants, Uribe sustained a mild hamstring strain. He missed five games.

Uribe returned to the starting lineup on May 16 against the Marlins. Even though he didn't hit as well as he usually does, he looked healthy. However, hamstring injuries are funny, since they can reappear at any time.

On Tuesday, when he limped off the field in the ninth inning, everyone knew Uribe was headed to the disabled list. The Dodgers believe Uribe probably will need more than 15 days before he returns.

This is quite a blow for the Dodgers. Since the beginning of the 2013 season when Uribe plays, the Dodgers have a winning percentage over .550, but when he doesn't play, the team has a winning percentage of .444. While using his fun-loving attitude to keep his teammates loose, he gives Los Angeles a veteran presence who can relate to players from multiple cultures.

Justin Turner and Chone Figgins figure to split time at third base while Uribe sits with the injury. Since the Dodgers didn't have a true backup for Ramirez, who has struggled offensively this season, manager Don Mattingly wanted to have a sure-handed backup shortstop.

Arruebarrena might not be ready for the Major Leagues offensively, but he is a Gold Glove Award-caliber shortstop. Tuesday's altercation involving Triple-A Albuquerque teammates Miguel Olivo and Alex Guerrero probably prevented Guerrero from being promoted. Arruebarrena will allow Mattingly to replace Ramirez in the late innings for a defensive boost.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sdmorris27@outlook.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.