The Dodgers lineup has had a facelift in recent days. And according to manager Dave Roberts, it could stay that way in the future.
On Wednesday, the cleanup hitter was Will Smith for a third straight game, with the catcher once again bumped from the No. 6 spot he had held for the first two weeks of the season.
Although Smith batted just .236 in his first 17 games, he has two home runs, 12 RBIs and a .733 on-base plus slugging percentage that ranks third in the club. Equally important, the 27-year-old has Roberts’ confidence every time he steps up to the plate.
“There’s no panic and he’s very unfazed,” Roberts said. “And that’s why, I think for a manager, the more players you can trust and are reliable, the better you feel managing them.”
Smith’s move in the lineup coincided with the fall of another player.
For the second straight game on Wednesday, Justin Turner was sixth at bat, something that hadn’t happened before this season and he had done only sparingly in recent seasons.
Turner, 37, was the Dodgers’ coldest hitter to start the season, entering Wednesday with just a .179 batting average, one home run, four extra hits and 19 strikeouts for just five walks.
“I wish I had an answer,” Roberts said when asked about Turner’s struggles. “He obviously has a slow start.”
Roberts said Turner’s work ethic hasn’t faltered and believes his at-bats were a bit better than the results show.
Still, Roberts acknowledged that Turner had widened the area, missing pitches he normally manages and struggling to draw walks as much as usual.
“I wouldn’t say he feels close, and I wouldn’t say he’s pressing,” Roberts said. “I would say he’s frustrated and determined to figure it out.”
Roberts played down the factor that age might have in Turner’s struggles, even with his unique leg kick.
“Obviously [that’s] the first thing people will point out,” Roberts said. “But I think there’s more to it. I know he’s going to tinker with some things to figure it out, but I can’t see him giving up the leg kick.
Roberts added that Turner would continue to play every day, albeit at a lower level of command.
“I’m going to keep racing him there,” Roberts said. “Just a different look can sometimes trigger something.”
Price back with the team
David Price was back around the Dodgers on Wednesday after clearing COVID-19 protocols following his positive test last week.
Price said he was traveling with the team to Chicago this week for their series against the Cubs – Wrigley Field is one of two stadiums the 14-year-old veteran has never been to, along with the new Globe Life Field Texas Rangers – then head to Arizona to start rebuilding. For now, he remains on the injured list.
Roberts said the team does not yet have an exact return date for the southpaw.