Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts expects Logan Forsythe to lead off, outfielders to compete for at-bats
With the arrival of second baseman Logan Forsythe, the composition of Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts’ lineup has started to take shape.
Roberts already intended to use shortstop Corey Seager, third baseman Justin Turner and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in the middle of his order. Forsythe, who was acquired from Tampa Bay in exchange for pitching prospect Jose De Leon, likely will be the leadoff hitter.
“I see him at the top of the lineup,” Roberts said Wednesday after an appearance before the Los Angeles City Council, where he received a commendation for winning the 2016 National League Manager of the Year Award. “Just because throughout his entire baseball career, he’s found an ability to get on base.”
What is less concrete for Roberts, as he prepares for spring training to begin in the second week of February, is the composition of his outfield. He is confident in Joc Pederson’s ability to handle center field and expects Pederson to play more against left-handed pitchers. But the corner spots are positions of intrigue.
There is Andrew Toles, who hit .314 as a rookie last season. There is Andre Ethier, who missed the majority of the year with a broken leg. There is Scott Van Slyke, who struggled because of a wrist injury. There is Trayce Thompson, who may not be ready for the start of the season as he returns from a broken back.
And then there is Yasiel Puig, who took the team’s instructions about reducing his muscle mass after slumping at the plate for much of 2016.
“If Yasiel is going to get 600 at-bats, then the Dodgers are in a pretty good place,” Roberts said. “With the skill set of Yasiel, if he’s performing and warrants being out there every night, then we’re in a good place.”
The most likely scenario involves Puig, Toles and Ethier all sharing time at the corners. If Thompson is healthy, he also can spell Pederson against particularly tough left-handed pitchers.
But Puig is not predictable, Toles has appeared in only 48 big league games and Ethier’s leg proved unreliable last season.
Roberts said he was told the team’s medical staff determined this winter that Ethier’s fractured tibia can finally be considered healed. Ethier has told Roberts he feels confident he can play the field, which is not a responsibility he felt he could handle after he returned to action in September.
“He feels great,” Roberts said. “He feels stronger than ever. What I do know from Andre is he’s going to go out there and compete to get as many at-bats as possible. And that’s what we would expect from any one of those guys. It’s going to be a competition.”
He added, “We know Andre’s pedigree. We know what he’s capable of doing. He doesn’t have to prove anything. It’s just more about continuing to put eyes on guys like Andrew Toles and Trayce.”
A similar contest is likely to play out among the starting rotation. After Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda, the last two spots in the early-season rotation appear up for grabs between a group that includes Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood, Brock Stewart and Ross Stripling.
The team also needs to manage the innings of Julio Urias, who is likely to log somewhere between 150 and 160 innings in 2017. In order to keep him viable for the final months of the year, the team will consider leaving him in extended spring training when they break camp.
“That’s on the table,” Roberts said. “We know that games in September are going to matter, and we know that he’s one of the top five pitchers in our organization. As a way to potentially have him through September and through October, it’s an option. We’re talking through some things and trying to see what’s best for Julio, what’s best for us.
“That, skipping starts during the season, all those things are on the table. We haven’t made any final decisions.”
Also Wednesday, the Dodgers announced they acquired outfielder Brett Eibner in exchange for infielder Jordan Tarsovich in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.
Eibner, 28, batted .193 with six home runs and 22 runs batted in for Kansas City and Oakland last season, his first in the majors. Tarsovich, 25, batted a combined .221 at Class A Rancho Cucamonga and double-A Tulsa last year.
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