For the better part of the last few seasons, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has had to mix and match outfielders in order to distribute playing time. In some instances, his job was made easier as injuries were a factor.
While multiple Dodger outfielders have suffered an injury this season, the versatility and depth on the roster has essentially made for there being a surplus at all times. That’s held particularly true in September given expanded rosters.
With Yasiel Puig still nursing a strained right hamstring and Joc Pederson continuing to work himself out of a slump that lasted the entire month of August, Mattingly has largely relied on a platoon in the outfield.
According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Mattingly is satisfied with the results from utilizing his outfielders based on pitching matchups:
You can see what we’re doing, not quite with all three spots, but definitely in left and right [fields] we can do it, with Carl [Crawford] and Andre [Ethier] against right-handers, and Van Slyke in there. I like the platoon situation.”
Justin Ruggiano is arguably the hottest of the bunch. Since the Dodgers acquired him from the Seattle Mariners, he is 8-for-19 with three home runs, three doubles and 10 RBIs. He’s been particularly effective against left-handers, which was a role Scott Van Slyke often filled.
Ethier, who was usually often viewed as the odd man out in the Dodgers outfield over the last two seasons, has been the most consistent outfielder. He enters play Monday batting .295/.367/.484 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs, perhaps benefitting from games off when the Dodgers face a lefty.
Pederson, who began the season hot and then cooled down drastically, is beginning to heat up again and is batting .313/.436/.531 with two home runs and five RBIs in the month of September.
Along with basing his lineup on an opponent’s starter, Mattingly hasn’t hesitated to pinch-hit for an outfielder to combat a pitching change. A prime example came in Sunday’s game when Scott Schebler pinch-hit for Ruggiano in the seventh inning as the Arizona Diamondbacks had a left-handed reliever on the mound.