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The rare shortstop & center field combination

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MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers
Utility man Kiké Hernandez is playing both shortstop and center field this spring in a bid to make the Dodgers roster. He’s not alone.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX — The first two Dodgers games of spring training have featured a pair of players fighting for a spot on the bench, both showcasing their utility over the weekend.

Chris Taylor is a career infielder who played center field for the first time on Saturday, then played shortstop on Sunday. Kiké Hernandez, who has been down this jack-of-all-trades route before, played shortstop on Saturday then center field on Sunday.

"Being as versatile a player as you can is only going to help you,” Taylor said. “We have a lot of really good players on this team, so you never know where you're going to end up.”

Something about the shortstop-center field combination has always fascinated me, with a single player at times assuming the roles of essentially the captain of the outfield and the alpha dog of the infield. There aren’t many who can pull it off.

Only ten times in franchise history has a Dodger played at least 10 games at both shortstop and center field in the same season. Three of those were by Derrel Thomas, the gold standard for utility work in club history. Thomas played all eight non-pitching positions in his five years with the Dodgers (1979-83), including three starts at catcher.

Thomas played at least 28 games at six of those positions during his time in Los Angeles, and pulled off the SS/CF combo in 1980, 1981 and 1983. In 1980, he played 49 games at shortstop and 41 games in center field, including 10 games that saw him play both positions.

Only seven of those 10 Dodgers seasons happened in the last 108 years, and only five of them included 10 starts at each position.

Davey Lopes was the Dodgers’ anchor at second base for the 8½ seasons of The Infield, but in 1975 also started 19 games in center field and played 14 games at shortstop. He started none of those games at shortstop, and totaled just 21⅔ innings at the position, which he never played again in his career.

Another member of The Infield, Bill Russell, was a shortstop by trade but started his career as an outfielder. As a veteran in 1984, he combined both positions, starting 19 games at shortstop and 16 more in center field at age 35.

Hernandez was the last Dodger to start 10 times at both shortstop and center field, in 2015, and before him it was Chad Fonville, in 1996. And anytime a list includes both Oyster Burns and Adonis Terry, it has to be good.

Dodgers to play shortstop and center field

Player Year SS games (starts) CF games (starts)
Player Year SS games (starts) CF games (starts)
Kiké Hernandez 2015 16 (11) 22 (16)
Chad Fonville 1996 20 (10) 18 (14)
Bill Russell 1984 65 (56) 18 (16)
Derrel Thomas 1983 13 (11) 43 (22)
Derrel Thomas 1981 26 (21) 10 (5)
Derrel Thomas 1980 49 (42) 41 (14)
Davey Lopes 1975 14 (0) 24 (19)
Tommy McMillan 1908 29 14
Oyster Burns 1888 36 14
Adonis Terry 1886 13 11
Minimum 10 games at each position. Prior to 1913, gamelogs are scarce and starts for each position aren’t fully known. Source: Baseball-Reference