Throughout the spring, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly often deflected questions on which relievers the team would carry into Opening Day, who the starting center fielder would be, and other roster decisions. It was Spring Training and there was plenty of time to sort that out later, he argued in jest.
Well, time has run out on the Dodgers, who set their 25-man roster as of late Saturday. However, what still hasn’t been explicitly stated — at least publicly — is who will run out to center field Monday when the Dodgers open the season against the San Diego Padres.
Andre Ethier and Joc Pederson entered camp as each other’s primary competition for the starting job, though the rookie appears to played his way to a starter’s role. Pederson was in the lineup for all three games of the Freeway Series.
While Mattingly didn’t name Pederson the starter, he strongly implied that’s the case prior to Saturday’s game at Dodger Stadium, via Pedro Moura of the OC Register:
You can pretty much read between the lines and see what we’re doing, but there are other conversations to have,” Mattingly said. “The way we want to frame it is maybe different than you want to, so we want to make sure we have all those conversations.”
Pederson hit .338/.377/.692, tied for the team lead with six home runs and led the Dodgers with 13 RBIs in 26 games this spring. Last season he became the first Pacific Coast League player in 80 years to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases, then struggled with the Dodgers in September in days that appear to be well behind him.
Comparatively, Ethier hit .327/.407/.462 in 21 Spring Training games. He was slowed over the last few games after being hit by a pitch on his right elbow March 31. When Ethier reported to camp he let it be known he didn’t believe he was best suited to play center field on a full-time basis given his age. However, he’s also been open about wanting to be a starter, which may not be in the cards for him.
There’s been no indication Carl Crawford won’t be the regular starter in left field and when the Dodgers face a left-handed pitcher, Mattingly will likely give the nod to Scott Van Slyke as he’s done in the past. Whereas the Dodgers were forced to realign their outfield last season, that shouldn’t be the case in 2015 — injuries permitting, of course.
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