PHOENIX — The Dodgers lineup and schedule pitchers on Thursday feature a few firsts this spring, against the Indians this afternoon at Camelback Ranch.
Franklin Gutierrez starts in right field on Thursday, batting fifth for the Dodgers, after making two previous starts at designated hitter.
"In a pinch he can play center, but I think for us I see him in the corners,” manager Dave Roberts stated this morning.
Gutierrez was one of the best defensive center fielders in his prime with the Mariners, but hasn’t played the position since 2013.
"He's done a good job of taking balls off the bat at all three positions,” Roberts said. “He has played center field his entire life, so it's not a big deal. It's like riding a bike.”
At the moment, Roberts said, the Dodgers don’t technically have a backup center fielder, though that is something that will be sorted out this spring. Should Kiké Hernandez or Chris Taylor seize the opportunity, they might also fill the role of the backup shortstop, something else Roberts said was a work in progress.
The plan is for Joc Pederson to see the bulk of time in center field this season, even against some lefties. But there will still need to be a backup center fielder on the roster, someone to play the position more than in a pinch like Gutierrez or Scott Van Slyke.
"I don't see [Van Slyke in center] happening very often, but it's a luxury to have that option,” Roberts said.
Andrew Toles starts in center for the Dodgers on Thursday.
Jose Miguel Fernandez makes his first start of the spring, getting the call at second base, batting seventh against Cleveland. The 28-year-old Cuban infielder, signed to a minor league deal in January, has appeared in two games this spring, both in reserve.
"I like him in he box. He just hasn't played a whole lot of baseball the last couple of years. We're kind of trying to get him on the strength and conditioning side, letting him understand his body,” Roberts said. “If he can get his legs under him, I think he'll be that much more effective as a defender.”
Roberts also said Fernandez would see time at third base this spring.
Kenley Jansen and Sergio Romo will make their first Cactus League appearances this spring.
Clayton Kershaw starts for the Dodgers and will pitch two innings during the game.
Slated to follow Kershaw on the mound are Alex Wood, Chris Hatcher, Brandon Morrow, plus Jansen and Romo.
Justin Turner returns to the Dodgers lineup after a planned three days off, batting third at designated hitter.
Time: 12:05 p.m. PT
Radio: 570 AM