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Versatility plays role in roster decisions

Dodgers keep Hernandez over Taylor, send Urias to Minors
March 30, 2017

ANAHEIM -- The Dodgers made their final cuts of the spring on Thursday, as they unofficially finalized their Opening Day roster. The club optioned infielder Chris Taylor, outfielder Trayce Thompson and left-hander Julio Urias to the Minor Leagues and reassigned catcher Bobby Wilson to the Minors.With Taylor optioned, Enrique Hernandez

ANAHEIM -- The Dodgers made their final cuts of the spring on Thursday, as they unofficially finalized their Opening Day roster. The club optioned infielder Chris Taylor, outfielder Trayce Thompson and left-hander Julio Urias to the Minor Leagues and reassigned catcher Bobby Wilson to the Minors.
With Taylor optioned, Enrique Hernandez has earned a bench role as a backup shortstop and outfielder. Hernandez's ability to play multiple positions between the infield and outfield proved to be the difference in him making the roster.
"I think with Chris, that move was solely based on [Hernandez's] ability to play center field," manager Dave Roberts said. "I think that when we finalized our roster, just looking at Chris Taylor versus Kiké, it was tough. Chris had a great spring, but our comfort with Kiké to play center field to spell [Joc Pederson] and also shortstop to spell [Corey Seager] at times, I think won."
Austin Barnes won a job as the backup catcher to Yasmani Grandal. Versatility helped Barnes earn the nod over Wilson, who made a strong impression after signing a Minor League deal in the offseason.
"We look at Yasmani as a guy who is going to catch a lot of baseball games, and I think that the flexibility that Austin gives us to potentially run off the bench, to potentially play second base in a spot, kind of proved to win out," Robers said. "But to have Bobby Wilson in Triple-A is a luxury."
The Dodgers are going with Scott Van Slyke as a reserve outfielder and first baseman over Thompson, who recently recovered from two fractured vertebrae in his lower back.
"To get him back to playing every day in any capacity I think is a good thing for him," Roberts said of Thompson. "But with Van Slyke, his ability to play anywhere on the field, the corners in the outfield, he can also play center field, has value, but also to play first base."
The Dodgers' final cuts indicate a premium being placed on players who can play multiple positions, with varied skill sets that give Roberts a flexible roster to work with.
"I think that the game itself is evolving towards guys being able to play multiple positions and give roster flexibility," Roberts said. "But especially in the National League, it's nice for me to look at a roster and not be pigeonholed with a certain spot with a player."
Urias was expected to be optioned as the Dodgers look to carefully monitor his innings and workload early in the season.
The Dodgers' unofficial Opening Day roster features Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the starting rotation.
The bullpen consists of Kenley Jansen, Sergio Romo, Grant Dayton, Luis Avilan, Thomas Stripling, Chris Hatcher and Alex Wood.
Grandal and Barnes will handle the catching duties. The rest of the position players includes Adrian Gonzalez, John Forsythe, Justin Turner, Chase Utley, Yasiel Puig, Alvin Toles, Franklin Gutierrez, Seager, Pederson, Hernandez and Van Slyke.
Worth noting
Seager, recovered from a strained oblique, is expected to return to the starting lineup for Saturday's Freeway Series game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium, Roberts said. Seager was set to play in a Minor League game in Arizona on Thursday and then have a day off on Friday, according to Roberts.

**Austin Laymance** is a reporter for MLB.com.