He was an All-Star in 2015. He was a critical cog in the Dodgers lineup in 2016. He catalyzed the team with three homers during the World Series in 2017. Yet as the team prepared for the second game of the 2018 season, Joc Pederson remained in a relatively unfamiliar place: The bench.
Matt Kemp started in left field against San Francisco, with manager Dave Roberts willing to overlook the potential platoon advantage of Pederson's left-handed bat against Giants right-handed starter Johnny Cueto. Kemp appears in line to start most days, so long as his production merits as much.
Roberts indicated Pederson would start on Sunday against another Giants right-hander, Chris Stratton. He was debating whether to start Pederson on Monday against Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker.
"Just because he's not starting doesn't mean he's not going to be in there," Roberts said.
The Dodgers avoid the usage of strict platoon, and decide playing time based on more granular data than simply from which side of the plate a batter uses. But Pederson will have to adjust to life as a reserve.
Pederson lost his starting role last summer after a lengthy slump. He sparked the team during the World Series but offered little production this spring. Pederson batted .148 in spring training games with a .505 on-base plus slugging percentage.
"With Joc, obviously I trust the defense," Roberts said. "And the at-bat quality we've seen I think is better than the numbers show."
The Dodgers opted to keep Pederson over Andrew Toles, who was more productive at the plate this spring and offers more speed off the bench. Toles is expected to play every day for triple-A Oklahoma City, although the team can recall him after 10 days in the minors, sooner if there is an injury.
Mazzoni returns to Cubs
Cory Mazzoni's time as a Dodger was brief. The Cubs claimed him off waivers on Friday only three days after the Dodgers had claimed him from Chicago.
The Dodgers tried to slip Mazzoni back through waivers in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. The Cubs foiled that gambit.
As part of the initial transaction with Mazzoni, the Dodgers designated outfielder Trayce Thompson for assignment.
Short hops: Enrique Hernandez will be the team's primary second baseman until Justin Turner returns from the disabled list, Roberts said. Logan Forsythe has replaced Turner at third base as Turner recovers from a wrist fracture. Hernandez will still split time at second with Chase Utley, who started on Friday against Cueto.