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Herrera in mix to take on leadoff role

Herrera in mix to take on leadoff role

Herrera in mix to take on leadoff role
LOS ANGELES -- When Matt Kemp returns to center field and Tony Gwynn returns to the bench, Don Mattingly's leadoff dilemma returns, too.

The hope coming into the season was Dee Gordon would disrupt opposing pitchers with his running speed, but Gordon struggled to bat .200, was benched, and now has returned in the No. 8 spot and is showing signs of life with his bat.

But that doesn't mean Mattingly is ready to return Gordon to the pressure spot.

"We still need to find a guy at the top when Matt comes back," Mattingly said. "We have choices."

The first name Mattingly mentioned Saturday was Elian Herrera, a nine-year Minor Leaguer who has become the primary second baseman with the left leg injury to Mark Ellis, who is not expected back for two months. Other names floated for leadoff include Bobby Abreu and Jerry Hairston.

"Elian has been swinging the bat good," Mattingly said. "We've gotten a little [contribution] from everybody [called in as injury replacements]. He's been the most consistent. He plays second, third and center. His swing is decent from both sides of the plate. He's got speed and shows awareness. He's been solid."

Herrera is batting .355 overall, .333 right-handed and .368 left-handed. He has an on-base percentage of .394. Abreu's on-base percentage is .435 and Hairston's is .409. Gordon's is .250.

Mattingly said Casey Blake is a "great comparison" to Herrera, because Blake also spent the better part of a decade in the Minor Leagues before finally breaking through.

"They got a ton of baseball drills, and Herrera played winter ball, too," said Mattingly. "He's kind of a veteran rookie, older, more mature, and he appreciates where he's at because he had to fight his way here."

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