Should Jeff Kent Still Hit Cleanup?

If Jeff Kent returns at age 40, should he still expect or be expected to hit cleanup in the Dodgers 2008 lineup? Kent's numbers have declined in recent years from nearly 30 home runs a year to barely 20. His legs are older and he never was a gazelle to start with. That means he is more and more prone to hitting into inning killing double plays.

It will be up to new manager Joe Torre to plan HIS lineup and Torre not only tinkered but changed his Yankees lineup over the years, including last year when Johnny Damon was taken out of the everyday centerfield slot, not to mention his more judicious use of former slugger Jason Giambi.

Says here that James Loney has to be given a chance to hit number three and that he has to hit his way out of that slot.  Matt Kemp, if kept, might replace Kent at cleanup, a shift Kent will have to adjust to, meaning not grousing about the talented kid who irritated him a year ago. One surely can't count on newcomer Andruw Jones hitting cleanup until he proves his . 222 average of a year ago was only a fluke and not signs of a slide.

Kent might even produce better hitting in the six or seven slot in what more than likely be his last year in the big leagues.

One of Torre's lineup decisions will be how to make the best use of C Russ Martin, whose power numbers are up and where his potential yet is to be exhausted. Martin has enough speed to steal 20 bases and also to get down the line to avoid double plays. One could also see Martin hitting just about anywhere in the lineup without embarrassing himself or the team.

The Dodgers still seem to be looking for help at third base. Has anyone noticed that "retired" Vinny Castilla is ripping the ball in the winter Mexican League? Wouldn't he be an alternative as well as a replacement for Olmedo Saenz?

In the late 1940s, the pitching refrain of the old Boston Braves used to be Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain.

For LA in 2008, it might be Penny, Lowe, Billingsley and Just Plain Pray. Simple fact is right now the Dodgers don't have anybody else one can have confidence in to be the number four starter, to stay healthy, and to have potential to win games unless Clayton Kershaw can astound everybody further and make the jump to the big league club. 

Fact is D.J. Houlton has just as good a chance to become a 10 game winner as rebounding Jeff Schmidt, late season acquisition Esteban Loaiza, twice tried Mark Hendrickson or anybody else.

Nobody in baseball has enough pitching, but the plight of the Dodgers here is glaring. Which is why the next roster addition will be pitching and pitching only. 

It was in just this kind of situation that Orel Hershiser made the shift from being a so-so long man in the bullpen to a great starter in the late 1980s.

Scuttlebutt around baseball last week had Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen thinking about CF Juan Pierre in White Sox pinstripes. The pair were together with the Marlins a year ago. Wouldn't it be nice if Guillen took the Dodgers off the hook on Pierre, even if the Dodgers had to eat half of the contract?