There are five-tool players in baseball, and there are individuals such as Jamey Carroll ---- defined first by one trait, versatility, which makes him a sort of Swiss Army Knife in the toolbox of Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Joe Torre.
In the same way a buyer of one of those multi-purpose knives may never foresee needing a wood saw, toothpick, bottle opener and chisel all in one place, the Dodgers may not have anticipated the need to start the 36-year-old Carroll at four positions when the season began.
But he's done just that, having moved into left field last week after stints at second, third and shortstop. And he's earned the trust and respect of Torre in the process.
"He's about as good a utility guy as I've had," says Torre. "A lot of times, utility guys, they can play a lot of positions, but they don't really give you a lot of base-stealing ability."
Carroll's batting .281 and is perfect in six steal attempts, but it's that ability to move around that has been crucial, particularly in the past week, as the Dodgers carried just 12 position players.
Torre wouldn't hesitate to play Carroll at any position, which is certainly in keeping with the veteran's career.
Part of a shrinking fraternity of former Montreal Expos -- Vladimir Guerrero is the chapter president -- Carroll has played at least three positions in each of his nine seasons with Montreal, Washington, Colorado, Cleveland and Los Angeles. He's played all three outfield positions -- thanks to one inning in center with the Rockies in 2007 -- and three of the four infield spots.
"Everyone says I'm too short to play first," he says of the one infield position he hasn't played. He does have a first baseman's glove just in case, although he forgot to bring it with him this season.
He had a catcher's mitt, too -- having done some bullpen catching in the minors, and carrying "emergency catcher" status in the majors, but finally gave the glove away. That doesn't mean he's off the hook if the Dodgers ever find themselves in a pinch: "We can find him another one," Torre says.
Never having caught with a hitter in front of him, Carroll says he's not sure how he'd respond.
"I'd give it a go, for sure," he says.
And the same is true of pitching: "If they need a guy to throw an inning, and save the bullpen -- I'm all for saving the bullpen."
More to the point of his role with the Dodgers are the four gloves in his locker -- one each for second (12 starts this year), short (34 starts), third (seven starts) and the outfield (four starts). The outfield glove was the last to see use, with Carroll pressed into duty with Manny Ramirez and Reed Johnson both hurt.
"I usually play out there a lot in spring training," Carroll says. "But this year, obviously, the focus was to get back playing shortstop. ... Usually, that's where I get a lot of work, just as far as showing enough for them to be comfortable putting me out there, whatever the situation may be."
By now, Carroll has shown more than enough to make Torre comfortable.
"If you put video on him all the time," the manager says, "it would be great to show the kids: You want to play the game? This is the way to play the game."