Over his first three-plus seasons as Los Angeles Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts has shown a knack for handling playing time decisions for one of baseball’s deepest rosters. That approach has led to three straight National League West championships and two NL Pennants since Roberts took over.
He will be faced with another challenge to balance playing time with the impending returns of A.J. Pollock, Corey Seager and David Freese from the injured list after the All-Star break. Freese and Seager have already been reinstated and placed on the active roster.
Pollock and Seager were Opening Day starters, while Freese was expected to play a significant role as part of a platoon at first base with Max Muncy.
The Dodgers’ refusal to miss a beat in the absence of such crucial position players helped them maintain the best record, but also gives Roberts some tough lineup choices with everyone healthy.
Roberts is not stressing over the issue, though, according to Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“I don’t think that holds a lot of weight for me,” Roberts said, adding that he expects all the position players to have to sacrifice “in some way” to accommodate the changes. “You’re bringing back three very good baseball players, three very good clubhouse guys. I just know that’s only going to make our club better.”
Pollock went down in early May with an elbow infection, leaving Alex Verdugo as the team’s primary center fielder. Verdugo has exceeded expectations there with both the bat and the glove after starting the season as a backup outfielder.
In a similar fashion, Chris Taylor caught fire just as he was pressed into action as starting shortstop when Seager suffered a hamstring strain in mid-June. After struggling as a backup utilityman to begin 2019, Taylor turned the corner at the right moment for the Dodgers.
However, Seager had finally returned to form himself before his injury, batting .382/.447/.671 over his last 20 games.
Freese has hit exceptionally well in his short time with the Dodgers, but Muncy’s success against left-handed pitching has made him an everyday player and is a big reason why he just made his first All-Star team.
The Dodgers’ positional versatility means that Verdugo and Taylor can likely stay in the everyday lineup once Pollock and Seager get healthy. The team has also experimented with Joc Pederson at first base to give Freese a much more traditional platoon partner while Muncy has seen increased time at second and third base.
With a substantial lead in the NL West, Roberts should have ample opportunities to juggle his lineup as the Dodgers inch closer to another division title and postseason berth.