Dodgers News: Chris Taylor Embracing Challenge In Center Field, Super Utility Role
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

While the Los Angeles Dodgers are staging a spring battle to round out their starting rotation, greater intrigue lies on the bench. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the Dodgers would carry 13 position players on their active roster.

Austin Barnes, Franklin Gutierrez and Chase Utley are essentially guaranteed spots on the 25-man roster. General manager Farhan Zaidi said a backup shortstop was likely to be part of the equation.

Charlie Culberson, Kiké Hernandez and Chris Taylor fit that description. Hernandez and Taylor may hold the upper-hand considering they already are on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster.

If a competition is brewing between Hernandez and Taylor, Saturday’s development made it all the more interesting. Hernandez figured to hold a slight edge in some sense due to greater versatility.

But Taylor played center field in the Dodgers’ 2017 Cactus League opener on Saturday, which may prove the equalizer. “You want to be as versatile as you can, especially on this team,” Taylor said Sunday.

“We have so many good players, and a lot of competition. Being able to play multiple positions is always a good thing.”

Both Hernandez and Taylor are capable of playing multiple infield positions. Taylor started at shortstop against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, though Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said time in center field lies ahead for the 26-year-old.

“To potentially see him out in center field, to support him also being able to defend in the infield, it just gives us more options,” Roberts explained. “It kind of makes sense for our roster to see if he can handle center field.”

Considering the depth at the corner outfield positions, Taylor’s focus will remain in center. Like Hernandez, he would make for a natural platoon of sorts with Joc Pederson. Though, the Dodgers do plan on allowing Pederson to receive more at-bats against left-handed starters.

Taylor’s action in center was the first time he’d played the position in his career. “It was definitely different,” Taylor said.

“It feels like you’re a mile away from the hitter, compared to what I’m used to. Even though I didn’t get any balls, it was good to get my feet wet out there. Out of my comfort zone a little bit, but that’s what spring is for.”

Taylor will spend the spring taking additional repetitions in center field during batting practices this spring, and also work with Dodgers first base, baserunning and outfield coach George Lombard on the finer details of playing the position.

Roberts surmised the Dodgers would have more of an idea on their roster construction (bullpen, bench and outfield) by mid-March.