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    With Mookie Betts in the infield, Dodgers outfield has ‘a lot of good moving pieces’
    • February 23, 2024

    GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Dodgers’ best outfielder didn’t even bring an outfielder’s glove or cleats to spring training with him this year. Mookie Betts is all-in on being a second baseman now.

    “So if we’re going out there, it’s with an infield glove and infield cleats,” Betts said after playing second base in the Cactus League opener on Thursday.

    “Yeah, I’m all in. You have to dive all the way in to be the best you can be.”

    Without Betts in the mix – unless something forces them to change direction – the Dodgers might resort to a familiar, fungible approach to making their outfield the best it can be. Manager Dave Roberts said of the group, there are “a lot of good moving pieces” from which to choose.

    The most likely alignments will have Jason Heyward in right field, James Outman in center field and free-agent signee Teoscar Hernandez in left field against right-handed pitching. Against lefties, Hernandez will slide over to right with Chris Taylor in left and Manuel Margot occasionally spelling Outman in center.

    “I think that’s fair,” Roberts said, at the same time refusing to be wedded to any alignment. “There’s gonna be days James is gonna play against lefties. And there’s gonna be some days where Max (Muncy) is gonna have some days off, which is gonna be against a left-handed pitcher (allowing Taylor to play third).

    “But we expect Teoscar to take down a lot of the at-bats. We expect James to. We expect J-Hey to play against right-handed pitching. So you’re looking at Manny, he’s best equipped to handle left-handed pitching. And CT is a guy who can play the infield, the outfield, handles both and has shown that throughout his career. … I can’t say right now what it’s gonna be.”

    Only Heyward in that group is clearly a platoon player. He never started against a left-hander last season and had just 26 at-bats all season against left-handed pitching.

    But Outman struggled against left-handers during his rookie season. Just one of his 23 home runs came off a lefty and he had a .665 OPS against them.

    “I still believe he needs days off so if he’s going to get a day off, it’ll be against left-handed pitching,” Roberts said of Outman, who made significant strides defensively as the 2023 season played out.

    “His defense, the last four months of the season was very good. So playing a premium defensive position, I want him out there. And also, he’s shown he can take good at-bats against left-handed pitching so it’s definitely not a platoon situation. It’s more of a how-much-can-I-keep-Manny-involved situation.”

    Margot is considered an exceptional defender, capable of playing any of the three outfield spots. But he has not hit well against left-handed pitching over his career – a .244 average and .664 OPS compared to .281 and .760 against right-handers.


    Right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto threw two simulated innings of live batting practice on Thursday. It was Yamamoto’s second session throwing to hitters. His next outing is expected to be in a Cactus League game.

    “I’ve been feeling good. I’m just pretending this is a real game,” he said through his interpreter.

    “I’m looking forward to throwing in the Cactus League. But I’m taking this seriously and getting myself ready for the regular season.”

    Yamamoto’s MLB debut could come soon. Roberts said the Japanese right-hander is “a safe bet” to pitch one of the Dodgers’ two regular-season games in Seoul against the San Diego Padres.

    “I don’t think that’s official yet,” Yamamoto said. “But if I throw during that series it would be such an honor and I will do my best to contribute to winning the game.”


    Two of the Dodgers’ top pitching prospects – River Ryan and Nick Frasso – will not be pitching this spring.

    Frasso underwent surgery to repair the labrum in his pitching shoulder in November. He said he is still a month away from starting a throwing program. But the 25-year-old right-hander is optimistic he will be able to pitch in games before the end of this season.

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    Ryan, meanwhile, finished last season with shoulder fatigue after pitching a career-high 104⅓ innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season. Ryan will be handled cautiously this spring and start his season late.

    The situation is very similar to Bobby Miller a year ago. He also finished the previous year with shoulder discomfort and didn’t start his season in Triple-A until the end of April. By the end of May, he had made his big-league debut and was in the Dodgers’ starting rotation.


    Roberts said he expects Shohei Ohtani to play in a Cactus League game for the first time this spring “sometime next week.” …

    Right-hander Tyler Glasnow is scheduled to make his spring debut for the Dodgers on Saturday against the Angels.

    ​ Orange County Register