With the Los Angeles Dodgers currently in cruise control toward a seventh consecutive National League West title, they have been afforded the unique luxury to experiment with different types of roster moves a little earlier than usual.
For instance, Joc Pederson received more playing time at first base as of late to allow Alex Verdugo to remain in the lineup. Such was necessary once A.J. Pollock returned from a lengthy stint on the injured list after undergoing elbow surgery in May.
However, after weeks of watching Pederson experience growing pains at first base, the Dodgers are calling it quits on the test. “It was great to give Joc a runway at first. Could it happen again this season? Possibly,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Cody Bellinger was not at first base for the series opener against the San Diego Padres, but he is expected to resume playing there on a more regular basis. The Dodgers had largely kept Bellinger in right field after he re-aggravated a right shoulder injury in early May.
“Talked to Cody, he’s done a great job keeping his shoulder healthy and getting it strong since he hurt it in San Diego earlier this year,” Roberts said.
“To get Cody over there, which he feels very good about, and certain times get him back in right field against left-handed pitching when we want to get Muncy at first base, to move Joc back to the outfield, that’s a decision we’re making going forward.”
Pederson entered the 2019 season with no previous professional experience at first base, and as one would expect under these conditions, there were miscues. Although the 27-year-old largely struggled at the position, Roberts remained encouraged with his progression.
Roberts emphasized the decision was not over a lack of commitment from Pederson. “The benefit is that we’ve seen it, we’ve given him an opportunity, and this was something that Joc was asking for,” Roberts explained.
“For us to oblige and give him that runway and see how it looks, like I’ve said, he’s worked his tail off to get better at first base. I really applaud him.”
Despite his efforts to learn the position on the fly, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for Pederson defensively at first base. In 20 games (19 starts), he has committed six errors over 149 innings.
For perspective, Pederson has only been charged with one error as an outfielder this season. While it wasn’t all Pederson’s doing, the Dodgers defense as a whole has struggled in recent weeks.
Getting him back in the outfield and a Gold-Glove caliber first baseman back in position should aid matters.