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Mookie Betts to play second base for Dodgers in series finale against Diamondbacks

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - JULY 3, 2020. Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts catches fly balls.
Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts catches fly balls during practice at Dodger Stadium on July 3.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

For the first time in more than two years, Mookie Betts will play second base when the Dodgers go for a sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday night at Chase Field.

Though he was originally drafted as an infielder by the Boston Red Sox in 2011, Betts transitioned to the outfield in the minor leagues and has since become a four-time Gold Glove winner playing predominantly right field.

But Betts’ versatility remains an asset. And just in case the Dodgers need to move him around defensively in the playoffs to create their best lineup, they want him to have some recent experience in the infield.

“He came to me a couple weeks ago,” manager Dave Roberts said, “and we were just talking about potential scenarios and how we move players around the diamond and if there ever was an opportunity in the postseason where things get crazy that he might find himself in the infield.

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Clayton Kershaw isn’t a fan of the extra-inning format adopted for this pandemic-shortened season, but the Dodgers are doing just fine with it.

“For me, nothing is off the table, especially when a player like Mookie is open to it.”

After making 14 appearances at second base as a rookie in 2014, Betts has done so just once since. On Aug. 3, 2018, he moved to second in the middle of a game after Red Sox starting second baseman Ian Kinsler suffered an injury.

Nonetheless, Roberts said Betts takes infield grounders every day and was supportive of returning to his original position for Thursday’s game.

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“I just felt this was a good opportunity for him to log some innings, get the feel of it, and see what he thinks,” Roberts said. “Right now, just gathering information. But he wants to do it. He’s excited about it.”

Kiké Hernández will take Betts’ spot in right field for the night. Chris Taylor is slotted in center field and AJ Pollock will start in left. Roberts also put both catchers in the lineup, with Austin Barnes starting behind the plate and Will Smith serving as designated hitter.

Roberts said Betts could see more time at second base before the end of the regular season, either as a starter or midgame defensive substitution. The manager acknowledged that, if his first-place team were in a tighter playoff race, he might be more hesitant to experiment.

“But,” Roberts added, “I do believe the caliber of player [Betts] is, knowing he’s played the infield his entire life . . . I feel really good about it.

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“Given the way we move our position players around, it just adds that different element and optionality for our ballclub. I think that sends a message throughout the entire organization. There’s really not a whole lot of downside.”


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