Joc Pederson Is Going To Win The Center Field Job, Obviously

BIG NEWS, YOU GUYS (AND GALS):

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wouldn’t say rookie Joc Pederson has won the center-field job for Opening Day, but Pederson has been getting the extended look the club promised this spring.

“We haven’t made any decision yet on who’s going to play where, but we do like the way things are going for Joc,” said Mattingly, who started Pederson on Tuesday along with outfielders Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford.

Cubs @
Dodgers
Glendale, Ariz.
SS
Rollins
LF
Crawford
RF
Puig
1B
Gonzalez
2B
Kendrick
DH
Ethier
3B
Uribe
CF
Pederson
C
Ellis
P
McCarthy

Well, yeah. Gurnick goes on to quote spring batting averages, .360 for Pederson and .182 for Andre Ethier, and which both don’t matter even a little — spring stats are dumb — and matter a ton. Why? Because for all the lip service paid to the idea that Pederson had to earn the job and that Ethier was in competition for it, there was almost no way that was ever, ever going to happen.

First, Pederson would have had to flop terribly in spring, and I’m not talking about “strikes out too much,” I’m talking about “Andruw Jones 2008 / Juan Uribe 2012 / every moment of Aaron Miles‘ life” flop. That hasn’t happened. Second, not only would Ethier have had to light things up — he has not — but the Dodgers would have had to help him walk back what he said to Bill Plunkett a few weeks back…

“I just don’t think that’s where I’m best suited to play every day,” said Ethier, who nonetheless did start more games in center field the past two seasons (126) than the corner outfield spots (79). “If you’re 33 you get moved out of center field. You don’t get moved to center field. For me to say all of a sudden, I’m going to be an option in center field that’s a far reach and a far stretch.”

…or, probably more likely, put Ethier in right and had to disrupt Puig back over to center.

For that to happen, a whole lot of things would have had to happen. Unsurprisingly, none of it has. The competition that never was is over, and when you look at today’s lineup against the Cubs, what you see is essentially the Opening Day lineup, which, when the DH is gone, means Ethier is gone too. At this point, I’ve completely given up on the idea that Ethier can be traded before the season starts, which is unfortunate news for Enrique Hernandez & Chris Heisey, both likely headed back to Triple-A.

Now, how long Ethier is willing to stay quiet and happy on the bench is anyone’s guess. Maybe once the season starts, some other team will suffer injuries and decide that they’re desperate. I don’t even know how this is going to play out. But it’s not going to be with Ethier as a starting outfielder for the Dodgers. It was never, ever going to be that way, and nothing we’ve seen this spring has changed that.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.