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MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Respected Uribe adding to strong playoff resume

Respected Uribe adding to strong playoff resume

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Respected Uribe adding to strong playoff resume

MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

ST. LOUIS -- There are more celebrated Dodgers, more valuable Dodgers, richer Dodgers. But where they live, in their clubhouse and dugout, there are no Dodgers more respected than Juan Uribe.

When he takes his place at third base and starts hacking with force at Busch Stadium in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night (5:30 PT on TBS), Uribe will be looking to enhance an already impressive October profile.

NLDS

"I like to call him Señor Postseason," said irrepressible reliever Brian Wilson, who has adapted remarkably to setting up for Kenley Jansen after helping drive the Giants to a World Series title in 2010 as their immaculate closer.

The shortstop on that team that ended a half-century championship quest in San Francisco was Uribe, whose athleticism inside that hulking catcher's body is extraordinary. Uribe was second among Giants in postseason RBIs in 2010, and his work defensively in support of a brilliant pitching staff was close to flawless.

That wasn't Uribe's first memorable October fling. He was the shortstop for the 2005 World Series-champion White Sox, bringing into the mix the same high-caliber defense and pressure hitting that he would produce for the Giants five years later in a career season (24 homers, 85 RBIs).

On top of the physical contributions is his leadership, which comes naturally, the best way.

"Uribe's character is one of a positive attitude at all times," Wilson said. "He's the same at all times."

Clearly, this is a man you want on your side when it matters most.

"He's a clutch player," Jansen said. "He hits. He's a Gold Glove-[caliber] third baseman. His personality is awesome. He keeps everybody loose."

If winning seems to follow him around, Uribe -- originally signed by Colorado at 17 in 1997 -- takes no bows. It's not his style.

"I don't think, 'They win because I'm here,'" he said. "When a team wins, it's 25 guys, and I'm only one guy. I've just been on good teams."

It's his sense of humor and easy, calming nature that make him a galvanizing clubhouse presence, out of view of the media. Uribe has had a big-brother type relationship with Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez. The trio often is seen bopping each other around, acting like carefree kids in a park.

"When you guys aren't around, he can be loud and a little crazy," said Edinson Volquez, the pitcher who grew up near Uribe in the Dominican Republic. "You've got to enjoy what you're doing, and everybody loves Juan. He's like a little kid, always joking, having fun. But he loves baseball, and when it's time to get serious, he can play."

Uribe already has had a moment to frame in this postseason, crushing the two-run homer off Atlanta's David Carpenter at Dodger Stadium that lifted Los Angeles to a 4-3 victory in the decisive Game 4 of the NL Division Series.

He's batting a highly productive .250 in the postseason with a pair of homers and seven RBIs, tying Adrian Gonzalez and Ramirez for the team lead. Uribe's run-scoring single in the second inning got the Dodgers rolling to a 6-4 decision in Game 5 of the NLCS with the season on the line.

Making the most of his three hits in 20 at-bats in the series, Uribe has driven in three runs, matching the sizzling Gonzalez's club lead.

A timely comeback season has Uribe back in prime form at 34. A man with four seasons of 20-plus homers, he batted .278 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs in 2013. His glove work has been top-shelf, certainly warranting Gold Glove consideration.

Only the Marlins' Placido Polanco had a higher fielding percentage at third base than Uribe's .983, forged with just five errors in 123 games. His range factor and zone rating were surpassed only by youthful Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado. Blessed with an accurate cannon of an arm, Uribe has excelled his entire career at third, shortstop and second base.

A target of critics as he hovered around .200 with limited power his first two years in Los Angeles, Uribe was a long shot this spring to nail down a regular job. But he reported to camp determined to show his critics he still had the right stuff -- and the ability to lift a team with the power of his bat and attitude.

The game is difficult enough at the highest level without the issues caused by a strained hip flexor, abdominal strain, hernia surgery and wrist injury -- his scorecard of ailments in 2011 and '12 after signing a three-year, $21.3 million free-agent deal with the Dodgers.

The third year has been a charm.

"I just want a team that wants me," he said, cutting to the heart of the matter, "and one I want to be with. It just happens."

Healthy again, Uribe is thriving in the fashion of his final season in San Francisco. He would love to reenact a city-wide celebration in another California city, sunny L.A.

"If you let Uribe shine," Wilson said, "he will shine."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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