Daily Distractions: Important roster decisions coming. Who will the Dodgers cut?

Jerry Hairston Jr.Mark EllisThe Dodgers are in the market for a pair of infielders.

Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr., currently on the disabled list with a strained right quadriceps and left groin, respectively, are expected to join the team at some point during this weekend’s road trip to Atlanta. Both are rehabbing tonight with the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.

But to take each off the disabled list means that another player must come off the active roster, and the choices are not obvious. After all, who expected Elian Herrera to get the first call-up when Hairston went on the disabled list two weeks ago?

That said, barring any (more) injuries, these are the four players whose time with the Dodgers may be at least temporarily up:

Luis Cruz. A gifted third baseman/shortstop, Cruz hasn’t hit enough this year to justify being on a major-league roster. In 69 at-bats, he has six singles for a .087 batting average and slugging percentage. Cruz is out of options, so the Dodgers would probably have to designate him for assignment. The prospect of closing the book on last year’s feel good story (and a player whose jerseys are still displayed prominently in the window of the Dodgers’ team store) has become a story in and of itself.

Ramon Hernandez. At 38, Hernandez’s bat speed isn’t what it used to be. He’s batting even below the Cruz Line, at .045, and the Dodgers have two catchers ahead of him on the depth chart. The Dodgers have two first basemen ahead of him on the depth chart, too, in Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Van Slyke. Like Cruz, Hernandez would probably be designated for assignment since he’s been out of options since 2002.

– Van Slyke. Sending Van Slyke out doesn’t make as much sense, given the Dodgers’ need for power and a backup first baseman/corner outfielder, but they’ve cut him loose before. In nine plate appearances, SVS has a single, a home run, two strikeouts and a walk.

Dee Gordon. Like Van Slyke, there are reasons to keep Gordon but history isn’t on his side. The Dodgers never wanted Gordon playing an everyday shortstop role in the majors until he was ready, and Gordon’s .220 batting average and negative UZR (which is actually up from last season) aren’t strong signs of readiness. The Dodgers could easily platoon Cruz, Nick Punto, Juan Uribe and Hairston on the left side of the infield until Hanley Ramirez returns from the disabled list.

Some bullet points to tide you through the weekend:

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Daily Distractions: Outdoor hockey invades Dodger Stadium.

Stadium Series

Say hello to the “Stadium Series.”

That’s what the NHL is calling the first outdoor NHL game in Los Angeles, which today was formally announced and scheduled for Jan. 25, 2014 at Dodger Stadium (and reported here last month). What will you call it?

According to the league, it will be the first outdoor regular-season NHL game played in the U.S. west of the Mississippi River, the southern-most outdoor NHL game ever and the first ever in California.

Tickets aren’t available yet but it’s believed that Kings and Ducks season ticket holders will get first dibs, with details to be announced soon.

Onto the bullet points:
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Daily Distractions: Dodgers face an important roster decision.

Mark Ellis, Juan Uribe, Justin Sellers

One of these men might not be on the active roster by game time tomorrow. (Associated Press photo)

Expect the Dodgers to shed an infielder for this weekend’s series against the San Francisco Giants.

Before we assume that Mark Ellis will be placed on the 15-day disabled list to make room for Clayton Kershaw, who must be activated from the bereavement list before he starts Friday, consider Ellis’ career numbers against the San Francisco Giants’ scheduled starters.

He’s never had much success against Friday’s starter, Barry Zito (.217/.280/.304 in 23 at-bats). Yet Ellis has had no problems with Saturday’s starter, Ryan Vogelsong (.313/.313/.375 in 16 ABs) or Sunday’s starter, Matt Cain (.333/.385/.417 in 24 ABs).

So if Ellis’ right quadriceps is healthy tomorrow — he wasn’t far off Wednesday — it’s entirely possible that the Dodgers would use him Saturday and Sunday and keep him on the bench as a late-innings option Friday.

If that’s the case, look for the Dodgers to option Justin Sellers to Triple-A Albuquerque. Sellers is hitting .200/.278/.262. His slugging percentage is the fifth-lowest in the National League, just ahead of Juan Pierre (.253). The Dodgers don’t need a slugger at every position, but they’ve got an extra infielder if Ellis and Hanley Ramirez are both healthy. Sellers’ numbers could leave him the odd man out.

A less likely move, if the Dodgers are so inclined, would be to designate Luis Cruz for assignment. Cruz hasn’t hit all season (.088/.117/.088), allowing Juan Uribe to surpass him on the depth chart at third base. While Sellers still has an option year to burn, Cruz does not, so this would be the most convenient means for removing Cruz from the active roster.

It’s a rash move, sure. By designating Cruz for assignment, the Dodgers would risk losing him altogether when they could just as easily keep Sellers or Ellis in the organization. But it’s an option, and something to keep an eye on in the next 24 hours.

Some bullet points for a Thursday morning:

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