The Joc Pederson first base experiment — a bumpy, six-week trial spawned by the Dodgers’ ability to treat the regular season as a playoff rehearsal because of their huge division lead — is over.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed its demise Thursday. He left open the possibility that Pederson could return to first base later in the season.
“We’ve given him an opportunity, and this is something that Joc was asking for,” Roberts said. “So for us to oblige and give him that runway . . . to give him an opportunity to see how he looks.”
The look was hardly unblemished. Pederson made six errors in 149 innings, including two in his final two games at the position. He made his debut at first as a defensive substitute in the ninth inning June 20. He started there the next day and 18 more games. His most recent came Monday against the Colorado Rockies.
“He’s worked his tail off to get better over there,” Roberts said. “So I really applaud him.”
Roberts spoke while Cody Bellinger took ground balls at first base during practice. Bellinger will shift from right field to play first base against right-handed starting pitchers. Roberts said he’ll play some right field against left-handed starting pitchers. Bellinger started in right field Thursday against San Diego Padres left-handed starter Joey Lucchesi.
Playing Bellinger at first base against right-handers allows the Dodgers to move Pederson back to left field and Alex Verdugo to right field with A.J. Pollock in center. Roberts indicated Max Muncy will get occasional starts at first base against left-handed pitching.
Roberts has said he avoided playing Bellinger at first base earlier because he feared Bellinger would re-injure his right shoulder. He has dislocated the shoulder multiple times, most recently May 4 against the Padres. The shoulder was popped back into place and he stayed in the game. Yet Bellinger hasn’t started at first base since and has appeared at the position just twice after defensive changes.
“Talked to Cody and he’s done a great job keeping his shoulder healthy, getting it strong,” Roberts said.
Pederson’s time at first base was trying. The 27-year-old said he had never played the position in a game at any level and had just pregame fielding sessions to prepare. Roberts, however, said Pederson “lobbied” for the opportunity and the Dodgers decided to give it a try to maximize their offensive potential against right-handers while keeping Bellinger in right field.
Gyorko to begin rehab assignment
Jedd Gyorko, acquired by the Dodgers on Wednesday, will begin a rehab assignment with double-A Tulsa on Saturday. Gyorko, 30, hasn’t played since the St. Louis Cardinals placed him on the 10-day injured list June 8. The Cardinals notified Gyorko he probably would get traded when they transferred him to the 60-day injured list Tuesday. He is eligible to return next week, but probably won’t join his new club immediately.
Gyorko explained he was close to a return when he suffered a calf injury earlier this summer. While he was out, he decided to have surgery on his right wrist to remove a bone spur. He said he is now healthy. The rehab assignment will allow to rediscover his timing at the plate. Roberts estimated Gyorko would need 40 to 50 at-bats in the minors.