The Los Angeles Dodgers enjoyed their last true off day of the spring on Wednesday, and return to Cactus League with a remade infield. Chase Utley is starting at first base against the Texas Rangers, while Logan Forsythe slides over to third base, and Chris Taylor plays second base.
Utley is in the midst of a very strong spring, batting .364/.395/.576 with a home run and 10 RBIs in 12 games. The start is his first in the field not at second base. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts previously indicated Utley was to receive time at first base.
With Corey Seager still working his way back from an oblique injury, Charlie Culberson gets the nod at shortstop. Culberson and Taylor are believed to be competing for one of the remaining bench spots on the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster.
Elsewhere, Yasiel Puig is back in the lineup, after he was scratched Monday due to left calf tightness. Puig starts in right field and bats fifth.
On the mound, the Dodgers hand the ball to Clayton Kershaw on an extra day of rest. The outing should be his final true test-run prior to starting against the San Diego Padres on Opening Day.
Kershaw presumably will make another start in exhibition play, but his final outing of the spring has typically been more of a tuneup.
The left-handed ace got off to a hot start this year, throwing six hitless innings across three games. Kershaw did get knocked around a bit by the Seattle Mariners last week, allowing four runs on six hits in five innings.
He’s allowed eight hits, five runs, and has 17 strikeouts to four walks in five Cactus League starts. Grant Dayton and Brandon Morrow are among the Dodgers relievers scheduled to pitch Thursday. Kershaw is expected to stretch out to six innings or 90 pitches.
The Rangers start right-hander Dillon Gee, who is a non-roster invitee competing for a spot in the rotation. Gee has pitched in four games this spring (one start) and has a 2.61 ERA while striking out seven in 10.1 innings.
After spending the first six years of his big league career with the New York Mets, Gee was with the Kansas City Royals last season. In 33 games (14 starts) in 2016, he went 8-9 with a 4.68 ERA, 5.25 FIP and 1.46 WHIP while striking out 89 and walking 37 in 125 innings.
Ryan Rua, who is starting in right field and batting seventh, leads the Rangers with 11 RBI this spring. He’s hitting .340/.353/.500 in 17 Cactus League games. Jurickson Profar, whom the Dodgers were tied to during the offseason, starts in center field and hits second.
First pitch at Surprise Stadium is set for 4:05 p.m. PT, and the game will be nationally televised by ESPN.
3B: Logan Forsythe
1B: Chase Utley
CF: Joc Pederson
C: Yasmani Grandal
RF: Yasiel Puig
LF: Andrew Toles
2B: Chris Taylor
SS: Charlie Culberson
P: Clayton Kershaw
DH: Delino DeShields
CF: Jurickson Profar
3B: Adrian Beltre
2B: Rougned Odor
1B: Mike Napoli
LF: Nomar Mazara
RF: Ryan Rua
C: Robinson Chirinos
SS: Elvis Andrus