Thursday, April 24, 2014
Rotating outfielders trying for Mattingly
By Mark Saxon
LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly has kept to the plan, spreading around playing time pretty equitably among his four outfielders.
Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier each have started 17 games. Matt Kemp has started 14 and Carl Crawford has started 14, but they were both out for the start of the season.
The only real lesson so far -- and it's, of course, far too early to draw any sweeping conclusions -- is that the Dodgers have a better defensive look with Ethier in center field than Kemp. They're also 6-2 when Ethier starts in center and 7-7 when Kemp starts there.
Mattingly isn't sure whether the four-player logjam is leading to the players' relative lack of production (Puig is the only one of the four batting better than .250), but he's sure it's not an ideal situation for him when it comes to having a good rapport with his players. He admitted doling out playing time has been a bit more stressful than he thought it would.
"I hadn't had to deal with it, really, until now," Mattingly said. "It does cause you [stress] a little bit. It's not so much hurt feelings as that you want everybody in the mix. It's that understanding that we're talking about four guys who have had, to this point, quality careers. You can't just throw those aside. I assume every time their name's not in the lineup, they're not necessarily happy about it."
He said "there will come a day" when he will lock in something closer to an everyday lineup, but for now the sample size is too small to make any hard evaluations.
Mattingly said it was difficult to leave Kemp out of the lineup Thursday after he hit two doubles in Wednesday's game. The difference is the Phillies were going with a righty -- Kyle Kendrick, instead of a lefty, Cole Hamels -- prompting Mattingly to use both left-handed hitters, Ethier and Crawford.