LOS ANGELES — Of the starting eight position players in Friday’s lineup, there is only one change from opening day. Chase Utley starts at second base in place of Kiké Hernandez, with Utley’s extensive experience against Giants starter Johnny Cueto.
“He’s had a lot of good history with Cueto,” manager Dave Roberts said. “With Chase you have to make sure to keep him involved and relevant. You have to give him starts.”
Utley has faced Cueto 53 times in his career, more than any other Dodgers, and is a .313/.377/.521 career hitter with three home runs and a double. Though in the last two seasons Utley is just 5-for-24 (.208) with a home run, a double and a walk against Cueto.
|2B||Panik (L)||SS||Seager (L)|
|1B||Belt (L)||2B||Utley (L)|
With a Justin Turner out with a broken wrist, Roberts said Hernandez would start two-thirds to three-quarters of the time at second base, including against some right-handers.
“I think Kiké’s defense is elite. What he’s done with his mechanics and approach he deserves that opportunity,” Roberts said. “With Chase his at-bat quality off the bench, that’s tough to do, and a huge weapon to have late in the game.”
Roberts said he would pick and choose his spots to start Utley, who delivered a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning on Thursday and stole a base.
Matt Kemp, a career .324/.359/.622 hitter against Cueto, moves up to fifth on Friday after batting sixth on opening day. Kemp’s probably in a similar playing time situation in left field to Hernandez at second base, only in this case splitting his time with Joc Pederson.
Pederson will start Sunday’s series finale against the Giants, Roberts said, and might also start on Monday in Phoenix against Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker.
Roberts also said Austin Barnes would start at catcher Saturday against Giants left-hander Derek Holland.
Major League Baseball released a breakdown of opening day rosters on Friday, noting that 254 players (29%) were born outside the United States. The Dodgers were represented by the most foreign countries or territories with eight — Cuba (Yasmani Grandal and Yasiel Puig), Curacao (Kenley Jansen), Dominican Republic (Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia), Japan (Kenta Maeda), Mexico (Julio Urias), Puerto Rico (Hernandez), South Korea (Hyun-jin Ryu) and Venezuela (Wilmer Font).
“All the guys with the different backgrounds and cultures where they’re from, to all come together in our clubhouse it’s pretty seamless,” Roberts said. “It’s funny hearing what people think is normal and how they adjust, and for me to get an outside view and watch how they interact with one another is a lot of fun.”
The ESPN telecast of Thursday’s Dodgers-Giants opener was watched by 1,996,000 viewers per Nielsen, making it the largest audience for an ESPN weekday telecast in six years. The network says it has televised more than 300 weekday games since the last such game with a larger TV audience, on opening day in 2012.