One of the more pressing issues for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the off-season was how manager Don Mattingly planned to utilize his four high-caliber outfielders in 2014. While there were some question marks surrounding Matt Kemp’s eventual return and Yasiel Puig’s character off the field, the crowded outfield was a hot topic for the organization and fans, with the focus on who would be the odd man out.
Mattingly has yet to commit to three outfielders, as he has instead implemented a rotation among the group of players. Mattingly has typically selected his outfielders based on whoever can give him the most optimal match up against whichever starter they may be facing, which has even meant the occasional utilization of Scott Van Slyke. Mattingly has also called on the benched outfielder to pinch-hit in games.
Constantly rotating the outfielders has become a bit of a challenge for the Dodger manager via Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles:
“It does cause you [stress] a little bit. It’s not so much hurt feelings as that you want everybody in the mix. It’s that understanding that we’re talking about four guys who have had, to this point, quality careers. You can’t just throw those aside. I assume every time their name’s not in the lineup, they’re not necessarily happy about it.”
When examining the numbers, the statistics of the outfielders at the plate are highly underwhelming. Carl Crawford is batting .222, and Kemp is hitting .218. Puig is batting the highest among the outfielders with a .269 average, whereas veteran Andre Ethier is struggling, hitting below .200. It’s plausible the low numbers are a product of the pressure of constantly competing for a position everyday and never knowing if their names will be in the lineup day to day.
Although it doesn’t appear as though it will happen anytime soon, Mattingly has stated that there will come a day when he will settle on a more consistent lineup among the outfielders. For now, every at-bat counts for the chosen four as they continue to compete for three spots.
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