Searching to fix his lackluster offense, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts started at the top. Before Friday's game against Cincinnati, Roberts dropped Chris Taylor from the leadoff spot and replaced him with veteran Chase Utley.
Roberts met with Taylor, who was the leadoff man as the Dodgers stormed through the 2017 season, to explain the decision. Taylor was batting sixth, where Roberts expects him to remain for the immediate future against right-handed pitchers.
"It was just trying to give him a different perspective on the lineup," Roberts said. "Let the game come to him. His intent, every time he gets into the box, hasn't wavered. But I think there is a little bit of adding pressure to yourself when you're at the top of the order, to create something. Get him in the middle of the order, I think it gives him a different look."
Taylor tripled and scored Friday and Utley went one for three, though the move hardly ignited the offense, the Dodgers finishing with five hits in a 6-2 loss to the Reds.
Taylor had been in the midst of a season-long slump. He was hitting .219 in his previous nine games with only two extra-base hits. Heading into Friday's games, there were 173 players who had received enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Taylor ranked 131st in on-base percentage at .299.
Taylor was a crucial cog in the Dodgers' offense last season. He hit 21 home runs and posted an .850 on-base plus slugging percentage. With Taylor struggling, plus Corey Seager and Justin Turner on the disabled list, the Dodgers are effectively playing without sizable contributions from the first three hitters in their 2017 lineup.
Utley, 39, has looked rejuvenated after finishing 2017 in a lengthy slump. He ranked third on the team with an .820 OPS heading into Friday.
"Chase has been consistent with everything," Roberts said. "His preparation, his intent in the batter's box. He's done everything we've asked of him. He's been great."
Forsythe heads to Rancho Cucamonga, and Turner will join him soon
Logan Forsythe (shoulder fatigue) began a rehab assignment with class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday. Turner (fractured wrist) was slated to join Forsythe there on Saturday. Both probably will be activated next week in Miami. Roberts indicated Turner would be fine returning to the lineup after only two rehab games.