With Gavin Lux expected to miss the entire 2023 season due to an ACL tear in his right knee, the Los Angeles Dodgers are going to rely on Miguel Rojas as their starting shortstop.
Rojas was originally penciled in as the utility man and a primary backup at all four infield positions and left field. However, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts now expects Rojas to make 75-80% of starts at shortstop, which creates a domino effect.
Chris Taylor was expected to be a big part of the center field mix and play there quite often, but now he is going to work as the backup shortstop, making 20-25% of the starts there and also filling in at third base. Taylor will no longer be relied upon as much in center field or second base.
“I think to have him get more familiar with short, play left field, take some innings at third base, I think that’s sort of how we see it,” Roberts said. “To have him and Miguel (Rojas) go back and forth, I think that’s kind of how we see it right now in spring.”
Still, Roberts anticipates the current plan may change based on production and any other potential injuries, and that is also reliant on Taylor’s right elbow holding up well enough.
“At this point we are,” Roberts answered when asked if there is confidence with Taylor’s right elbow playing shortstop. “Everything is kind of trending in the right direction as far as arm strength. The health is there, so now it’s just a bet on the player and person, and we feel good about C.T. obviously.”
Without Taylor in the outfield as often, Roberts said the Dodgers are considering a mix of Jason Heyward, James Outman and Trayce Thompson as their primary center fielders. Heyward is considered more of a platoon player, but Roberts is comfortable playing Thompson against right-handers and left-handers, and he likes the defense both provide.
But no matter how it shakes out, the Dodgers will rely on their versatility more without Lux plugged in at shortstop.
“When you’re playing outfield, whether you’re bouncing from left to center, or center to right, I wouldn’t say that’s much of a role,” Roberts said. “I think C.T. understands his value with the ballclub. I think Max and Vargas kind of know what they’re doing.
“So then you’re kind of looking at when you play and when you don’t. I think we have good pieces. It’s just my job to make sure guys stay current. Jason’s (Heyward) had that role for the last couple years, and I think David (Peralta) the same thing. Trayce (Thompson) has kind of found his way back, which is good too.”
Miguel Vargas closing in on hitting in game
Miguel Vargas, who is expected to play as the everyday second baseman in 2023, has not yet been cleared to hit in a game after suffering a hairline fracture on his right pinky. However, Roberts believes Vargas will begin fully hitting again soon.
“Miguel is doing batting practice in the cage,” Roberts said. “I think Friday is going to be a full off day, and then Saturday he’ll be back playing. Hopefully after the off day, he’ll have the green light to swing a bat during the game.”
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