Betts to play shortstop 'permanently, for now'

March 9th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With just two weeks to go before the Opening Series in Seoul, South Korea, against the Padres, the Dodgers have made a change at shortstop.

Throughout the winter and into camp, the Dodgers were leaning on to handle the bulk of the responsibilities at shortstop. But as Lux’s throwing woes continued this spring, the Dodgers are now giving the keys to the position to , who came into the season as the club’s starting second baseman.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the move to have the 2023 National League Most Valuable Player runner-up at shortstop is “permanent, for now.” Betts was the starting shortstop in the Dodgers’ Cactus League game on Friday, and he is expected to play four more games at the position before flying out to South Korea.

“Just to make this move right now it’s something that the entire organization feels is the right thing to do to give us the best chance to prevent runs and to win baseball games,” Roberts said Friday. “I think that, specific to Gavin, it gives him an opportunity to get to the other side of the diamond and -- he’s actually played more second base than shortstop in the last few years. So to get him back over there, shorten the throw, it should be less of a toll on his body overall and give him an opportunity to have success.”

The decision to move Betts to shortstop was not one the organization had considered as they came into camp this spring. But after watching Lux struggle in game situations this spring, the concerns about whether he could handle the demands of the position continued to grow.

Even after Lux committed two errors on the first two opportunities this spring, the Dodgers were willing to chalk it up as rust for the former top prospect. After all, Lux had missed the entire 2023 season due to major right knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and LCL. But those concerns only grew on Wednesday as Lux’s throwing woes were on full display.

Lux had a throwing error, but also had a pair of bouncing throws that were scooped by first baseman Freddie Freeman. In 2019, Lux also struggled with throwing across the diamond. Making this move earlier this spring, the Dodgers believe will help Lux play free and not affect his offense, which has looked solid in Cactus League play.

“To really care about the player and his well-being and success mentally, emotionally and physically, is part of the job,” Roberts said. “And then you look at it on the bigger scale as far as the team and what gives the team the best chance -- and we’re speaking specifically to defense -- to prevent runs.”

Roberts said the conversation with Lux and Betts was had on Thursday and both players signed off on the decision, though the Dodgers’ manager did admit there was some natural disappointment from Lux, who prepared all offseason as the team’s shortstop.

“The conversation was cool,” said Betts, who called Lux after the meeting with Roberts. “We’re all on the same page here. We don’t care what happens. We just want to win. We don’t care how we really get there. The most important thing is winning. As for me, I don’t care. I genuinely do not care. I’ve said this a million times. I just want to win. You can put me wherever. As long as I’m on the diamond, I’m going to do the best I can do and we’ll see what happens after that."

The Dodgers could’ve also gone with Miguel Rojas as their shortstop, but that would’ve been a significant downgrade offensively. Moving Betts to short, which he played 16 games at the position last season, allows the Dodgers to keep both Betts and Lux in the lineup, which they believe is their best alignment. Lux, of course, also served as the team’s starting second baseman in 2022.

Roberts also clarified that Betts at shortstop isn’t a platoon situation. Betts will be the shortstop most nights, while Lux will be at second base against right-handed pitching. It’s a drastic change, especially at this point in the spring, but one the Dodgers believe is necessary in order to be at their peak this season.

“It’s definitely a change. But it’s fun, too,” Betts said. “You can’t make it more pressure. It’s always a lot of pressure -- especially going and being a Dodger, it’s a lot of pressure. So being a Dodger, being the shortstop for the Dodgers, is a lot of pressure. But I like it.”