The last time Dave Roberts had to worry about who to use as his designated hitter was March 27, when his Dodgers hosted the Angels in the final game of spring training. Roberts chose Chris Taylor. He changed it up Friday night in Anaheim, and he plans to again Saturday.
In the Dodgers’ first game in an American League park this season, he chose Matt Kemp. He also chose Kemp in spring training, along with Yasmani Grandal, Corey Seager and Joc Pederson at different times. Saturday he plans on tapping Justin Turner.
Roberts likes the flexibility his roster affords him, but he still would prefer not to choose someone every night. He thinks MLB’s current setup — designated hitters in the American League and pitchers hitting in the National League — is the best system. He admits that’s at least in part because he’s spent the bulk of his career in the NL.
“That’s what I’ve grown to love,” he said. “I played it. I’m managing it. I coached it. I’m more partial to that.”
He appreciates the strategy involved in making a double switch or deciding when to hit for a pitcher. Even trying to put his bias aside, and even though his team should be in solid shape if the NL adopted the DH, he still chose the current system.
“I think it’s good to have both,” he said. “The contrast in styles.”
As for how he chooses, it varies. Some players just aren’t good fits. He said Yasiel Puig, for example, gets too “antsy” waiting around on the bench and prefers to occupy himself with playing defense. His decision Friday had to do with resting Kemp, who at 33 years old is tied with Turner as the second-oldest player in L.A.’s lineup.
Kemp, however, is eight years older than the average age of Friday’s starting outfielders Pederson, Puig and Cody Bellinger.
“It’s a big left field,” Roberts said, “and I just felt like today’s a day that makes sense to get him off his feet.”
For good reason: The first-pitch temperature was 108 degrees.
Feeling the heat
The first-pitch temperature broke the previous Angel Stadium record of 106, and it was worse during the day. That forced Roberts to make some changes.
The main one was shortening batting practice to keep players out of the sun. He also tried to keep them in the clubhouse and off their feet as much as possible. Both teams have to play in the same conditions, but being better rested, he said, can make the difference.
“The net of being in air conditioning and resting your body,” Roberts said, “gives us a better chance to win a baseball game.”
The future is now
Major League Baseball announced rosters for its annual Futures Game, a part of All-Star week that matches top U.S. prospects up against those from around the world. Two Dodgers made the cut for the World team.
Keibert Ruiz, a catcher from Venezuela, is hitting .248 with 22 RBIs this season in 60 games for double-A Tulsa, but he’s a career .311 hitter.