Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers entered the 2023 season with the plan of Gavin Lux and Miguel Rojas filling in nearly every game as their shortstops with Mookie Betts starting almost every day in right field.
However, that changed when Lux suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee during Spring Training, which forced Rojas into a starting role and made Chris Taylor the primary backup. As Rojas dealt with injuries of his own and both he and Taylor struggled, the Dodgers opted to let Betts play shortstop.
It was a position Betts had not played professionally since playing a total of 14 games there in 2011 and 2012 as a Minor Leaguer. But despite that, Betts has proven to be a solid option to play shortstop.
“Yeah, this is something, it’s uncharted territory really, for me, to see somebody going from the outfield, the best at his position in the game, and to come up and play an above-average shortstop in a Major League game,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts recently said.
“I just marvel at how he doesn’t get anxious or nervous taking this on. He just has a way of just embracing it. But I don’t think that people can really appreciate how difficult this is. I really don’t.”
Betts has won six Gold Glove Awards as a right fielder and he was also named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. But the challenge of playing a new position is also something that helps Betts get locked in as he has all but mastered playing defense in right field.
“Yeah, I think so. I think so,” Roberts said of playing infield helping Betts hone his focus.
“I think that great players are always looking for a challenge, whether it’s a contract, whether it’s to play for the Hall of Fame, whether it’s for Mookie, in this particular case, a challenge to play a different position knowing that he’s already dominated right field, can do that on a regular basis.
“But there’s something that sort of keeps his interest and that’s a good thing for all of us.”
Betts is once again putting up an All-Star caliber season after a slow start, and he’s among the National League leaders in the first 2023 MLB All-Star Game voting update.
Mookie Betts performing better offensively as a shortstop
Betts has hit better when playing shortstop, which albeit has come in a smaller sample size when compared to right field.
Roberts is not convinced there’s any correlation, but it’s fair to question if Betts is indeed more locked in when playing out of position and that helps his offensive game.
“It’s a small sample,” Roberts said. “But if you ask Mookie, he thinks there’s a correlation.”
But that is also another impressive skill for Betts as players moving to new positions can sometimes let it affect their offense, even for the best hitters.
When Freddie Freeman was asked to play third base for the Atlanta Braves, his offensive numbers dropped.
“I think that Mookie, like a lot of great players, has the ability to compartmentalize,” Roberts said. “And Mookie would never say that playing a different position would affect him in the batter’s box, or the shadows affected a particular outcome of an at-bat.
“He just doesn’t make excuses. Mookie really does a good job of, regardless of where I play, I’m going to pour myself into that, and it’s not going to affect my hitting.”
Make sure to follow Dodger Blue on Instagram! It’s the best way to see exclusive coverage from games and events, get your questions answered, and more!