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Alex Verdugo starts in CF in his major league debut

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Photo credit: OKC Dodgers

SAN DIEGO — Alex Verdugo joined the Dodgers on Friday at Petco Park, and he already finds himself in the starting lineup, batting eighth and playing center field against the Padres in the opener of a four-game weekend series in San Diego.

“We know he can play center field. He’s had a great year. For a young player, sometimes it’s best to get him in the fire and get him going,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s earned this opportunity.”

Verdugo is just the fifth Los Angeles Dodger to start in center field in his major league debut, joining Willie Davis, Mike Ramsey, Matt Kemp, and Andrew Toles. Verdugo, who hit .314/.389/.436 with Triple-A Oklahoma City in his age-21 season this year, said he will have roughly a dozen family and friends in attendance to watch his debut.

He got the good news on Thursday morning by phone from Oklahoma City manager Bill Haselman. Verdugo was asleep and missed the first call, but picked up on the second try.

“He just told me all the hard work I put into this season, it all paid off because you’re going to the big leagues,” Verdugo said. “My first reaction was, ‘You’re messing with me, right?’”

It was a call Verdugo, a 2014 second-round pick of the Dodgers, wasn’t expecting until 2018.

“Everyone wants to be in the big leagues, but I didn’t think I was going to get up here this year,” he said. “It’s not my Rule 5 (draft year), and this is the best team in baseball. I’m happy it worked out the way it did.”

Starting lineups

Pos Dodgers Pos Padres
Pos Dodgers Pos Padres
SS Taylor CF Margot
LF Granderson (L) 2B Asuaje (L)
3B Turner LF Pirela
1B Bellinger (L) 1B Myers
C Grandal (S) SS Solarte (S)
RF Puig RF Blash
2B Utley (L) 3B Spangenberg (L)
CF Verdugo (L) C Hedges
P Kershaw (L) P Lamet
Time: 7:10 p.m. PT TV: SportsNet LA

Verdugo was a non-roster invitee to spring training this season, and got a chance to get to know most of his now-teammates, some of whom were willing to offer the rookie advice.

“I talked to Adrian [Gonzalez],” Verdugo said. “He said to just enjoy it, and do the opposite of what [Yasiel] Puig says.”

Notes

Fabio Castillo was also recalled before Friday’s game. The right-hander, who had a 4.27 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 84 innings in 22 games, including 16 starts for Oklahoma City, was on his way to San Diego as of two hours before game time, and arrived in time before the game.

Wilmer Font will be called up on Saturday.

O`Koyea Dickson, recalled on Friday, saw the birth of his son earlier in the week and now is in the big leagues for the first time. Roberts said Dickson will start one of the games of the doubleheader on Saturday.

Andre Ethier is expected to start the night game of the doubleheader on Saturday.

The Padres called up four players on Friday -- pitchers Kyle McGrath, Jose Valdez, and Jordan Lyles, and infielder Erick Aybar (activated from disabled list). Lyles will start the day game of Saturday’s doubleheader.