'Tough ballplayer': Lux learning CF on the job

Dodgers sticking with former top prospect despite inexperience at position

October 21st, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- When the Dodgers acquired at the Trade Deadline on July 30, walked into manager Dave Roberts’ office and offered to play the outfield. Lux had no previous experience in the outfield, having played his whole baseball career as either a shortstop or a second baseman, a skill set that made him one of the top prospects in baseball.

But Lux understood what the roster looked like and he wanted to find a way to get in the lineup. When he was sent down to Triple-A Oklahoma City at the end of August, Lux was understandably upset. Once he got to the Minors, he borrowed Zach Reks’ outfield glove and got to work. After just three games in the outfield at Triple-A, the Dodgers called him back up.

“I think it’s a credit to him [being] willing to do whatever it takes to help us win,” Roberts said before Wednesday's Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves. “And it’s not easy to be in a position that you haven’t played a whole lot of, certainly in this stage, and on the heels of what happened yesterday. I mean, it takes a tough ballplayer to withstand that stuff.”

As expected, Lux’s adjustment to the outfield has come with its fair share of ups and downs. Even after Lux’s costly misplay in Game 3, the Dodgers started him back in center field in Wednesday's 9-2 Game 4 loss. Batting in the five-hole, he finished 0-for-2 before being taken out for defense in the sixth.

“Gavin is extremely talented and has been put in a position that’s extremely difficult in playing a position he’s never played before September and now in the playoffs,” Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler said. “And in talking to him after [Game 3], I think he’s going to learn a lot just on how to make that specific play. Gavin’s confident enough and talented enough to handle that kind of stuff.” 

That specific play came in the fourth inning when a ball bounced off his glove near the wall in right-center. It set up the Braves’ four-run inning and was ruled an error after a scoring change. The Dodgers came back to win Game 3, 6-5, with an eighth-inning rally.

It came in Lux’s 10th career start at the position and also after Lux helped get the Dodgers out of a potential big frame earlier in the game when he caught an Ozzie Albies fly ball and threw to second base to retire Eddie Rosario for a double play. During that sequence, Lux showed off the instincts and speed that make the Dodgers comfortable with using the former top prospect in center field.

On Wednesday, Lux was involved in another critical play when Joc Pederson shot a flare into center field. Lux played the ball conservatively, and Pederson tallied an RBI single. Back on the mound, starter Julio Urías raised his arms up in frustration. The ball had a 40 percent catch probability, according to Baseball Savant. It also gave the Braves a four-run lead.

Changing positions this late into the season is indeed extremely difficult, but Lux has responded by becoming an integral part of the Dodgers’ lineup this October, going 3-for-14 with four walks. He wrapped up the regular season by hitting .360 after getting recalled from the Minors.

The outfield isn’t necessarily the position for Lux moving forward, but it gives him the best chance to play. And the Dodgers are going to stick with him. Even if it doesn’t always look natural.

“I think he’s a heck of a ballplayer,” Roberts said.

Roberts’ TikTok?

When asked how many times he’s watched Cody Bellinger’s tying homer in Game 3, Roberts said he’s gone through it about a dozen times. The way he has relived the moment will probably surprise you.

“Now with this thing called TikTok, it’s around everywhere, so my kids show me this stuff,” Roberts said.

Wait, so does Roberts have his own TikTok?

“No. No,” he said with a smile. “I might have a burner Twitter account, but I don’t have a TikTok account.”

Maybe that’ll change if the Dodgers win the World Series.