LA targets Monday for Seager's return to field
Shortstop will play defense in Minors game before rejoining Dodgers
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Corey Seager is scheduled to play his first game on defense on Monday and the Dodgers are hoping it's another positive step in his preparation for the season opener.
But Seager also is the elephant in the room for the defending National League pennant winners. What if the two-time All-Star's right elbow blows out and he requires Tommy John surgery? What then?
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The Dodgers have a plan. Chris Taylor, who went from Minor League shortstop to starting center fielder in the Majors in last year's breakout season, would become the everyday shortstop. Enrique Hernandez would platoon in center field with either Joc Pederson or Alex Verdugo, ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Seager will play in a Minor League game on Monday and a Major League game on Wednesday. Seager has been on a restricted schedule since reporting to camp because of a right elbow injury he said caused him pain with every throw late last season.
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Seager chose to rehab the injury instead of undergoing surgery, which would have sidelined him most or all of the 2018 season. This spring, Seager has been limited to designated hitter duties in games while continuing a program to rebuild arm strength. He began throwing to bases in morning drills on Monday.
Returning on Monday provides nearly two weeks for Seager to convince the Dodgers, as well as himself, that his arm is up to the throwing demands of a Major League shortstop.
Taylor, who said he's a shortstop at heart, is ready where needed. Even though he's considered the starting center fielder, Taylor said he's worked as much at shortstop this spring as any previously. It's part of the plan.
"I'm open, I actually enjoy playing multiple positions, but I grew up playing shortstop," Taylor said. "I always take a lot of pride in my defense at short. I do think it's a position you have to constantly get your reps in order to keep that aggressive mentality. That's always been kind of my bread and butter."
Taylor said he hasn't been told what the club would do if Seager can't answer the bell.
"I don't know what would happen if that's the unfortunate case, but I think you do need an everyday shortstop," Taylor said. "It's not a position you can juggle throughout the season. No matter who's playing there, I think anyone would tell you, if you're playing there every day, that's when you get the most out of that player."
Taylor has taken ground balls at shortstop every day this camp.
Should Taylor return to the infield, center field almost surely becomes a platoon, Hernandez primarily against left-handed pitching, either Pederson or Verdugo against right-handed pitching. Verdugo has been much more impressive this spring than he was in a callup last September. Pederson's numbers don't show it yet, but Roberts said he's trending in the right direction this spring.