Joc Pederson reported to Spring Training with the Los Angeles Dodgers heralded as the best center fielder in the organization. With the trade of Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres, Yasiel Puig was moved back to his natural position and that opened the door for Pederson to take the reins.
Manager Don Mattingly didn’t officially name a starter during camp, but it quickly became evident Pederson earned the nod to become the team’s center fielder despite Andre Ethier, the primary competition, also playing well.
Along with taking on the responsibility of patrolling the outfield, the 23-year-old rookie recently had more put on his plate when Mattingly moved him to the top of the lineup. In nine games since the change, Pederson is hitting .212/.366/.758 with six home runs, 10 RBIs and eight walks.
He’s hit his first career grand slam as the Dodgers leadoff hitter and had his first multi-home run game, which came May 6 in a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. While the feat was a first for Pederson, he was quickly reminded by Adrian Gonzalez not to celebrate personal accomplishments in a loss, according to Zach Helfand of the LA Times:
In a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers this week, Joc Pederson slugged two home runs only to discover, upon returning to the Dodgers’ clubhouse, that Adrian Gonzalez had snatched his phone. Gonzalez dangled it out of reach while Pederson reached in vain. Eventually, Gonzalez surrendered it with a warning. “You better not talk about your homers after a loss,” he said. “I won’t,” Pederson vowed.
That isn’t the first time the Dodgers have reminded Pederson of his rookie status with the club. During a road game in Chicago last season, he was sent in full uniform to get coffee from a local Starbucks for his teammates. Pederson took the moment in stride, even posting a photo of himself on Instagram carrying the several cups of coffee.
The night Pederson hit the first grand slam of his career, teammates pranked him by orchestrating a change to his walk-up music so that his usual hip-hop songs were replaced by pop music from popular boy bands.
Joc Pederson Discusses Being Pranked By Teammates