With the Los Angeles Dodgers facing Miami Marlins left-handed Justin Nicolino on Wednesday, Trayce Thompson again found himself starting in center field. It was Thompson’s sixth time starting in center, and 10th overall start this season.
Joc Pederson sitting against a lefty is nothing new, of course. Former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly sat Pederson, and other left-handed batters, with regularity last season when against a same-side pitcher. Current Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has continued with the practice.
However, in what appears to be a platoon in center field, Roberts remains steadfast in his refusal to label it as such. “I’ve talked about using the roster, and I think Trayce is good out there in center field and I want to get him at-bats,” Roberts said.
“It makes sense to get him in there against left-handed pitching. Joc had good at-bats against the [Marlins left-handed reliever Craig] Breslow on [Tuesday], so it’s not like I’m pinch-hitting every time a left-hander gets in there.”
Pederson was back in the lineup, and Thompson on the bench Thursday night with the Dodgers facing the right-handed Jose Fernandez in the four-game series finale. Roberts previously remarked he’s inclined to find playing time for Thompson, even with a righty on the mound.
Roberts reiterated that stance, saying, “Trayce has swung the bat well, so you have to play him. Throughout his Minor League splits, they’re pretty much even. I think [Wednesday] is a day Joc certainly could have played. I felt that I wanted to get Trayce in.”
On the season, Thompson is batting .300/.333/.500 with one double, one home run and two RBIs in 21 plate appearances against lefties. Pederson is hitting .302/.413/.547 with four doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs against right-handers; he’s 0-for-5 with one walk and two strikeouts against righties.
Roberts’ further argued against the notion he’s utilizing a platoon by pointing to an upcoming start Pederson will make against a left-hander. After concluding their homestand with a series against the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers will face the Tampa Bay Rays for a brief two-game midweek series at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay is slated to start a left-hander in each game, and Roberts intends for Pederson and Thompson to make one start apiece in center field. “Matt Moore is a left-hander I see Joc playing against (on Tuesday),” Roberts said. “There’s certain guys where it makes sense to give someone else an opportunity, because they have a better chance.”
For as much as Roberts has praised Thompson for his play, the first-year manager doesn’t envision the versatile outfielder taking hold of the center field job on a permanent basis. “Joc is swinging the bat well. There’s also reason to put players in position to have success,” Roberts said. “There’s no platoon, I really don’t see it.”