Heading into Spring Training, many believed that Joc Pederson would be the Los Angeles Dodgers starting center fielder.
Manager Don Mattingly made it clear that he would have to earn the spot and Pederson did just that, hitting .338 with six home runs and 13 RBIs. On Monday, the 22-year-old found himself in center field and batting seventh on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. He went 1-for-3 with a double, a walk and a run scored.
According to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times, Mattingly still won’t call Pederson the everyday center fielder, even though it seems that way:
You’re going to see Joc a lot in center field.”
In the sixth inning, Pederson showed that his bat is not the only reason he became one of the top prospects in baseball. He made a nice diving catch to rob Will Middlebrooks of a double in a play that Dodger fans aren’t used to seeing. Matt Kemp had his fair share of highlight-reel plays in his time with the team and Yasiel Puig did the same in center field last season, but Pederson is the first natural center fielder in quite some time.
Because of that, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is ready for more from his outfielder:
I’m excited to see what we can do over the course of the season,” Clayton Kershaw said.
Despite his solid debut, Pederson was quick to brush off the praise and avoid cockiness:
It’s been a long process,” Pederson said. “A lot of the hard work is paying off. I’m thankful for the coaches that have helped me and continue to help me. I still have a long way to go.”
The Dodgers hope that he reaches his potential this season and hold down the position for years to come.
Dodgers 2015 Spring Training – Carl Crawford