Nearly seven weeks into the regular season, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly may be zeroing in on a more consistent group of starting outfielders.
As was the case last year once Yasiel Puig was called up in June, the Dodgers have four outfielders vying for the three spots. Scott Van Slyke has contributed off the bench, but he doesn’t quite factor into the conversation as to who the starting trio should consist of.
According to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, Mattingly identifies Kemp and Puig as the players who have essentially locked up a spot in the daily lineup:
I think Yasiel’s established himself in right field, pretty much, as the guy,” Mattingly said. “Matt’s been playing, I think, well. He’s been swinging the bat better.”
Kemp and Puig are lead the outfielders with 25 and 28 starts, respectively. However, with Mattingly’s tendency to rely on a platoon, Crawford and Ethier aren’t far behind with 23 and 24 starts. Ethier also has one start this season as a designated hitter.
While Kemp and Puig appear to have established themselves as every day players, Mattingly acknowledged Crawford and Ethier will continue to compete for playing time:
The situation leaves Ethier and Carl Crawford “fighting for that playing time,” Mattingly said.
Crawford had been mired in a slump, which led to Mattingly stating he believed the outfielder was pressing for playing time. The 32-year-old left fielder responded with a go-ahead home run against the Miami Marlins and currently has a six-game hitting streak.
Ethier has discussed the platooning on multiple occasions and recently reiterated the stance that while everyone wants to play every day, the team’s goals are what ultimately takes precedent.
With Crawford and Ethier the primary options to continue being used as part of a rotation, it affords Mattingly the opportunity to go with whichever player is swinging a hot bat, or to provide a day off for Kemp or Puig.
Dodgers Update: Yasiel Puig’s Story Going To Be A Movie? Plus, Mattingly’s Trouble In The Outfield