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Mookie Betts back at second base as Dodgers shuffle some positions

Cody Bellinger in right field, Chris Taylor in center on Tuesday

Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Mookie Betts is back at second base on Tuesday night as the Dodgers open up a two-game series with the Astros at Dodger Stadium, the second time in as many games Betts is in the infield since getting activated from the injured list.

Betts, who missed 11 games on the injured list with right hip inflammation, was activated on Sunday in Arizona, and started at second base instead of his customary right field. He made a few notable plays, including an over-the-shoulder catch in the outfield.

“It was a lot of fun getting back to my roots,” Betts said Sunday. “It was good, kind of easing myself back into play.”

Betts started once at second base last year, too, seemingly as a lark, and played three innings at the position earlier this year during a blowout. Tuesday is his 19th major league game at the position, and 17th start. In the minors Betts played 230 games at second base before moving to the outfield in 2014 in Double-A.

The rationale behind having Betts in the infield now is to lessen the wear and tear on his hip by not having to run in the outfield. Dave Roberts on Sunday said the turf at Chase Field was something they were hoping to have Betts avoid. But now, on natural grass at Dodger Stadium, Betts is at second base.

He last played in the outfield on July 17.

In another switch, Cody Bellinger shifts over to right field with Chris Taylor manning center. Bellinger was held of the lineup two days in a row last week with hamstring tightness, then played first base for two games to ease him back into the lineup. His last three starts came in center, before Tuesday, Bellinger’s first game in right field this season.

Dodgers-Astros lineups

Pos Astros Pos Dodgers
Pos Astros Pos Dodgers
2B Altuve 2B Betts
RF Brantley (L) 1B Muncy (L)
SS Correa 3B Turner
LF Alvarez (L) SS Seager (L)
1B Díaz C Smith
CF Tucker (L) CF Taylor
3B García (S) RF Bellinger (L)
C Maldonado LF Pollock
P McCullers (L) P Buehler

Here is Roberts’ full explanation about the positional changes for Tuesday:

“It’s about how we can field our best club, look out in the coming weeks, and keeping guys healthy. With this, it’s unselfishness and understanding on Cody’s part, to know that he can dominate right field, CT to move to center field, then give Mookie a chance to stay on the dirt for another day. He came up a little bit sore playing, so to keep him on the dirt just allows for him to stay on the field. That’s our goal. That’s my goal. That’s everyone in that clubhouse is goal. Right now this is the best way to do that.”

Imagine the possibilities when Trea Turner arrives. Turner, on the COVID-19 injured list and currently in quarantine, will likely fly to Los Angeles on Friday, Roberts said. Turner’s activation date is still to be determined.

Bellinger, who hit .118/.186/.215 in July and sat on Sunday, bats seventh for just the second time this season. AJ Pollock, who is hitting .394/.442/.723 with 17 extra-base hits since July 1, is hitting eighth.

“I’m hitting AJ Pollock, who was in the discussion for player the month, eighth. That’s just kind of lengthening our lineup, and surrounding Cody with some guys that are swinging the bat well,” Roberts said “It’s the unselfishness of our guys. We can’t do what we do without players being able to be unselfish, and focus on winning a baseball game.”

Late scratch

Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, one of four players on Houston’s active roster to play in the 2017 World Series, was a late scratch. Aledmys Díaz moves from third base to first base, with switch-hitter Robel García now playing the hot corner.