Dodgers Spring Training: Jason Heyward Leading Non-Roster Invitees For Opening Day

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The Los Angeles Dodgers spent much of the offseason in search of a replacement to Cody Bellinger in center field, but wound up addressing their outfield depth by signing Jason Heyward and others to Minor League contracts with a non-roster invite to big league camp in Spring Training.

Heyward joined the Dodgers after another disappointing showing with the Chicago Cubs that led to getting released despite having $22 million owed to him in the final season of an eight-year, $184 million contract signed in December 2015.

Freddie Freeman lobbied the Dodgers front office to sign Heyward, and the close friends regularly worked out together during the offseason.

Although the Dodgers are only a couple days into official full-squad workouts in Spring Training, manager Dave Roberts said Heyward is ahead of other outfielders who also were non-roster invitees, per Jack Harris of the L.A. Times:

Asked if Heyward, who signed this winter on a minor league deal, has a leg up on other non-roster invitees for the likely last roster spot in the outfield, Roberts replied, “Absolutely.”

Heyward went into camp figuring to compete with the likes of Steven Duggar and Bradley Zimmer for the final spot in the Dodgers’ outfield.

With Mookie Betts entrenched in right field, that leaves Heyward, David Peralta, Chris Taylor and Trayce Thompson to form platoons in center field and left field.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Taylor is expected to make regular starts in center field at the beginning of the 2023 season.

Jason Heyward changed swing

As Heyward looks to bounce back from multiple seasons of inconsistency, he reported to Spring Training with a new batting stance and swing. Freeman raved about the changes his former Atlanta Braves teammate made, and they were on full display when Heyward hit a home run against Tony Gonsolin.

“Just on a day-to-day, it’s nice to be able to manage. We’re not always going to feel great; that’s a part of the game. And then of course the pitchers on the mound, you’ve got to give them credit,” Heyward said.

“But just having something to be consistent with and make adjustments on the fly, which to me is the most important part of the game, has felt nice to this point. Just keep building. You’re always building from start to finish of the year. You want to go out there and repeat enough to put yourself in position to help the team.”

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