Dodgers News: Dave Roberts Leaves Path to Playing Time for James Outman Open
The Dodgers made the decision to name James Outman to the opening day roster on Thursday. The rookie outfielder played well enough to earn the spot and, after tearing up Triple-A pitching last season, is ready for the next step in his development.
One reason the club took so long to make the decision was the fact that there are a lot of outfielders on the roster. And it’s no good for anyone for Outman to come up to LA to sit on a big league bench. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts understands he has a bit of a challenge on his hands to open the season. How will he keep each player relevant? He spoke about that with reporters.
“The next level is trying to divvy out how it makes sense for each of these five outfielders. It’s important (for Outman to get regular at-bats). He’s going to play a good bit. I want to leave it broad, but for him to be on our major-league roster and not play doesn’t make any sense at all. So with that, he’s going to play a good bit.”Via Bill Plunkett, OC Register
The other four outfielders Roberts is referring to are Mookie Betts, Trayce Thompson, and offseason signings David Peralta and Jason Heyward (who is making the team as a non-roster invite). Utility man Chris Taylor should also see a fair amount of time in the outfield, but he may be more limited to a backup infielder role until he starts figuring it out with the bat (note: high speculative).
Of those four above, Betts and Peralta are expected to play a lot. Betts will play just about every day and Peralta should be in the lineup against most right-handed pitchers. That leaves at least one spot available for Outman nightly. And that would keep Thompson, Heyward, and Taylor on the bench, so not very great divvying.
Also gone this year for Dave is the designated hitter’s role, at least the way the club used it in 2022. J.D. Martinez will be in the lineup more often than not and that limits the team’s ability to keep guys like Max Muncy in the lineup for an unofficial day off to give someone like Taylor a chance to get in at third base.
So, the short of it is, it’s going to take time for Roberts to figure out how to keep players playing. Baseball has a funny way of figuring itself out. But chances are Outman will be given the lion’s share of opportunity to open the season. Something the manager thinks the rookie is ready for.
“I think we just feel that he’s going to be able to handle this runway. But it’s an adjustment. It’s a game of adjustments and so there are some things he does really well and there are some things he can get better at. That’s not just a young player, but that’s anyone.”
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Unfortunately, Roberts prefers older veterans because he really doesn’t want to work that hard. Should have never extended him. The only way Outman is going to learn to hit LHP is to face LHP! You don’t learn how to hit LHP sitting on the bench. Peralta was a panic signing. Heyward was a favor signing. Neither will provide much impact. But, hey, at least Roberts doesn’t have to work at coaching them up!