That four outfielders for three spots? How about five outfielders?
Saturday afternoon became the first time Mattingly had all of his outfielders healthy at the same time this season to face a left-handed starting pitcher. And he did what he never would before.
His outfield: Yasiel Puig (right), Matt Kemp (center) and Scott Van Slyke (left). He also sat down left-handed-hitting Dee Gordon at second and started Justin Turner. The only left-hander position player in his lineup was Adrian Gonzalez.
It was the right early move, making it clear to all that Mattingly is not going to be hesitant to sit anyone. And in doing it this way, there was no early divide between choosing between Ethier and Crawford.
“[Bumgarner] is tough on everybody, but he would not be a fun at-bat for any lefty,” Mattingly said. “I’m trying to match up as best I can with our personnel and their personnel. It’s what you try to do every game.”
The previous day, he had originally planned to sit Kemp. Then when Puig arrived late, the Dodgers manager benched him. Mattingly is in charge and every player best recognize it.
Crawford and Ethier have both been hitting well lately, but both played the good soldier after Mattingly told them they would not be in Saturday’s lineup.
Said Ethier: “It’s nothing too complicated. I want to be out there every day. But we have a lot of guys in this clubhouse capable of contributing on an everyday basis. We’ve got to let everyone have their opportunity to work through whatever players we have here.
“It’s a long year. It’s going to take more than this group of outfielders we have right here to win this year .… You want to be in there every day, but be ready for whatever you’re called for on that particular day.”
Said Crawford: “If you’re thinking about the team, it’s not really hard. It’s not frustrating at all, you just want to play. Nobody wants to be on the bench. But at the same time, it’s what’s best for the team, or at least that’s what the manager thinks. You just have to go with that.”
Last season Ethier hit .235 against left-handers, and Crawford .206. For their careers, Ethier is at .235 and Crawford .259.
No one is certain how Mattingly will handle his lineup vs. future left-handers, but they’d best be ready for whatever he decides.
“If it’s successful today, then it’s probably the way it’s going to be,” Crawford said. “You just never know how these things go, you just have to go through your workout and prepare the way you always prepare and be ready to play.”
Fewer than a third of major-league starters are left-handed, so this situation will hardly be an everyday deal. Still, in the past Ethier almost always started against left-handers and it was a struggle.
“It’s very early in the year, where we still have a lot of things to figure out and get guys playing time and opportunity, and let things work its way through the season and get us into the mix of the season,” Ethier said.
“It just makes us stronger,” he said. “It seems a little funny right now, just because we have all these off-days. But we’re going to get in a stretch where there’s no off-days and you’re playing every day, every day, every day — somebody’s dinged up, somebody’s banged up, somebody needs a breather. I don’t feel like it’s going to be as complicated as it sounds.”
Particularly for the man in charge.