The Los Angeles Dodgers, taking full advantage of their firm grip on a playoff spot, started Mookie Betts at second base Thursday to get him experience at the position to prepare for an emergency situation in October.
Betts, traditionally the starting right fielder, came up as a middle infielder but has played the outfield throughout his major league career. Thursday's game, the finale of a three-game road series against the Arizona Diamondbacks that ended in a 5-2 loss for the Dodgers, marked Betts' first start at second base since he played 14 games there with the Boston Red Sox in 2014. Betts also moved to second base from right field early in a game on Aug. 3, 2018.
Betts was error-free against the Diamondbacks.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Betts takes ground balls in the infield on a daily basis. A couple of weeks ago, the two talked about the unforeseen circumstances in a short playoff series that might prompt Roberts to pinch hit one of his outfielders in the early innings and might force Betts to play second base. Betts embraced the idea.
"For me nothing is off the table, especially when a player like Mookie is open to it," Roberts said. "And so I just felt like this was a good opportunity for him to log some innings, get the feel of it and see what he thinks."
Roberts said he hopes to give Betts another start at second base and move him there from right field in-game before the regular season wraps in a little over two weeks. The Dodgers, who boast an abundance of versatility with their position-player group, have a 32-13 record and a plus-98 run-differential, easily the best in the majors.
Roberts acknowledged that he probably wouldn't experiment this way if his team were still fighting for playoff positioning.
"But I do believe that the caliber of player he is, knowing that he's played the infield his entire life, also giving us optionality moving forward, certainly I feel really good about it," Roberts said.