Nobody was more ready for Opening Day to get here than Dodgers shortstop Justin Sellers, who said he had a sleepless night Sunday not because he was nervous, but because he was so excited.
"I'm ready to do this," Sellers said.
The Dodgers optioned Sellers to minor-league camp the morning of March 19. That evening in San Francisco, Hanley Ramirez dove for a ground ball in the World Baseball Classic and tore a ligament in his right thumb.
That set in motion an unlikely change of direction for Sellers' career, from fading prospect to everyday major-league player, at least as long as it lasts. Ramirez is expected to miss about two months and the Dodgers are giving Sellers, 27, the first chance to stabilize the left side of the infield.
The Dodgers had a change of heart about what to do in Ramirez's absence. First, they thought of sliding Luis Cruz over from third base, but they met and decided Sellers gave them better defense to support their pitching. They didn't think Dee Gordon was polished enough to fill the same role.
If Sellers can field well and produce just enough with his bat, he figures to be the primary shortstop until he's not.
"We always looked at Sells as kind of the safety valve at short because we knew he could catch it," manager Don Mattingly said. "Offensively, Sells has not shown at this point that he’s going to be a great offensive player. We just need to him to have a good approach and compete at the plate."
Here are lineups for the Dodgers' game against the defending champion San Francisco Giants:
Angel Pagan CF
Hunter Pence RF
Brandon Belt 1B
Matt Cain RHP
Mark Ellis 2B
Matt Kemp CF
Andre Ethier RF
Luis Cruz 3B
Justin Sellers SS
Clayton Kershaw LHP