Before the Los Angeles Dodgers had reached San Francisco, much less the All-Star break, their sights were set on the three-game series with their division rival.
Manager Don Mattingly utilized the break to reset his rotation so that Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu would start this weekend.
However, for as calculated as that decision may have been, there was another, albeit not as planned, that was the story heading into the series opener. The Dodgers played the game with an outfield alignment they’d yet to use this season.
Yasiel Puig not only returned to the lineup, he made his first start in center field this season — and seventh career start at the position.
As a result, Matt Kemp remained in right field, which may now be his new home, and Carl Crawford started in left. The shuffling didn’t cause any defensive issues, though Greinke did record 10 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings.
Following the win, Mattingly said Puig may be the Dodgers’ best option in center and is unsure how long he’ll remain there, via ESPN LA’s Mark Saxon:
We feel, with our combination of guys, this may be our best chance in center field,” Mattingly said. “It could be a day, it could be a week, it could be forever — or as long as he plays. We don’t really know, but we know he’s physically capable of handling the spot.”
While Puig stated he’s willing to play at any position he’s asked, he admitted to being fond of center field:
I just want to be on the field helping my team win,” Puig said after the game. “Whatever position they ask me to play, I’m going to do my best. I do prefer center field a little bit, because I can run more.”
What this means for the rest of the Dodger outfielders remains to be seen. Although Matt Kemp believes his rightful spot is in center, he’s admitted to being more comfortable in right field compared to left, and looked the part.
However, Kemp has also been involved in endless trade rumors within the past week and could be on his way out. Should Kemp remain with the team and if Puig anchors center field, it may once again result in Crawford and Andre Ethier platooning in left field.
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