Forty-one games into the 2014 season and the Los Angeles Dodgers outfield picture has only become slightly more clear. With four outfielders vying for playing time on a daily basis, it wasn’t until recently that manager Don Mattingly offered some clarity.
To no surprise, Mattingly shared his belief that Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig are two players whom he believes are every day outfielders. Puig is batting .326 and is in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak, which is the longest of his career.
Meanwhile, Kemp has slowly began to find his footing after working his way back from off-season ankle surgery. Relatively exclusive from the outfield rotation, Puig leads all Dodger outfielders with 33 starts, Kemp is second with 30, Andre Ethier follows with 27 and Carl Crawford rounds out the group with 25.
According to Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti shared his belief in the value of having the surplus during a conversation with LA Times columnist Dylan Hernandez:
It’s a situation we’re going to have to deal with,” Colletti said. “But we’re always going to be one injury away from not having to deal with it. It gives everybody a chance to take a breath, get a day. Everybody likes to play, but I think it’s sometimes beneficial to take a day.”
Prior to Mattingly’s comments, it was evident Crawford and Ethier were relegated to platooning in left field, with Ethier also providing on occasional off day for Kemp in center. Juggling the outfielders may have been somewhat to blame for the slow start out of the gate, particularly for Crawford and Ethier, whose playing time has been the least consistent.
However, as the foursome appears to finding its groove, managing the outfield shuffle may become more cumbersome for Mattingly. Both Crawford and Ethier have acknowledged their desire to be in the lineup each day, but in the same conversation have stressed the importance of accepting what’s best for the team.
If Mattingly is able to successfully manage the situation, the Dodgers could reap the benefits as the season wears on and the team is able to keep the group healthy and legs fresh. As the Dodgers experienced last season and again this year, injuries can quickly begin to mount.
Dodgers Update: Yasiel Puig’s Story Going To Be A Movie? Plus, Mattingly’s Trouble In The Outfield