Prior to the Los Angeles Dodgers officially starting Spring Training, manager Dave Roberts openly stated he was unlikely to settle on one leadoff hitter throughout the regular season. Just as former manager Don Mattingly often did, Roberts said he will play to game-by-game matchups.
The Dodgers roster is one that’s devoid of a traditional leadoff hitter, but there certainly are capable options who each bring a different skill set to the table. Carl Crawford, Kiké Hernandez, Howie Kendrick and Joc Pederson have been among those mentioned as possibilities.
On Wednesday, Andre Ethier entered the picture. The veteran outfielder was penciled in the leadoff spot for the first time in his 10-year Major League career.
“He gets on base,” Roberts answered when asked why he elected to bat the soon-to-be-34-year-old lead off. Roberts went on to add it’s a position Ethier, who will be the Dodgers’ starting left fielder, may find himself in during the regular season.
Ethier owns a career .383 on-base percentage and 116 OPS+ against right-handers. Those drop to .234 and 56, respectively, against left-handed pitching.
“If there is a matchup that we feel is a great matchup for that night, then to see him potentially get three at-bats against that starter, it makes sense,” Roberts said. “You look at what gives your team the best chance to win that day.
“This is different because we’re not necessarily trying to win [Wednesday], but it breaks [Ethier] in a little bit to having him potentially hit leadoff during the season.”
Ethier went 1-for-2 on Wednesday with one walk and a run scored. “Why not at 34 years old reinvent yourself as a leadoff hitter?,” he jokingly asked. “I want to try and be in there everyday, and [batting leadoff] is a way to try and get more at-bats.”