Poll: Who should play third base?

Luis Cruz doesn’t plan on playing third base the when he suits up for the Culiacan Tomateros of the Mexican Winter League. “Probably,” he said Monday at Dodger Stadium, “second base, outfield.”

Luis  CruzIs this a sign that Dodgers are trying to turn their emerging everyday third baseman into a utility player? Hardly.

“I try to play the position I didn’t play in the States,” Cruz said. “It’s better for me so I can play more positions. … In winter ball I like to play one game at third, one game at second base, then if they ask me to go play the outfield in the middle of the game, I go to the outfield.”

It’s a nice plan if it works in Cruz’s favor, which it did last year. The Dodgers used him mostly in the outfield in spring training, Cruz did well, and when he got off to a hot start for Triple-A Albuquerque, he got called up and became a fixture at third — the Dodgers’ greatest position of need, not Cruz’s primary position in Albuquerque.

This season, it’s a different story.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly have been cautious about what they say about Cruz’s role for 2013. Mattingly summed up the prevailing sentiment on Monday: “You’re not going to hand anything over to anybody, but he deserves to be looked at (at third base).”

That’s not true of course; as of right now the Dodgers will hand starting outfield jobs to Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, while Hanley Ramirez, Mark Ellis and Adrian Gonzalez will man the infield. A.J. Ellis will catch. Cruz is the only one who, if healthy, enters spring training with less than a lock on an everyday job. Combined with the Dodgers’ rumored interest in free-agent third baseman/first baseman Kevin Youkilis, the short-lived A-Rod trade rumors, and the uncertainty of Hanley Ramirez’s defense at shortstop, you start to wonder how safe Cruz’s job really is …

Which leads to today’s poll question.

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.