LOS ANGELES — In a few hours, it will be official. Every Dodgers position player will have started at least once this season. Hanser Alberto starts at third base, batting ninth in the home opener on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, the first of a four-game weekend series against the Reds, and the Dodgers’ sixth game of the season.
Manager Dave Roberts said he talked with Royals manager Mike Matheny, who said Alberto was one of his favorite players.
“I love everything about Hanser,” Roberts said. “He’s a baseball rat, a positive guy. He’s a baseball player. I can throw him anywhere on the diamond.”
|RF||Naquin (L)||1B||Freeman (L)|
Alberto at third base means Justin Turner is the designated hitter for the third time in six games. Max Muncy shifts to second base, with Chris Taylor in left field. Gavin Lux isn’t starting for the first time this season. Roberts said Lux will be in the lineup for the rest of the homestand, which has six more games after Thursday night.
With a designated hitter every game, the Dodgers have had a pretty set lineup. Counting Friday night, the three bench players will have made a total of four starts — Alberto on Friday, Edwin Ríos at DH last Saturday, and team home-run-leader Austin Barnes catching twice.
The Dodgers have used exactly nine position players in four of the first five games. They have pinch-hit just once, with Alberto on Sunday in Colorado.
“With our roster, we’re fortunate we don’t have a lot of guys that we really need to hit for,” Roberts said. “Just having that kind of built-in spot in the order makes my life a little easier.”
Clayton Kershaw was still smiling on Thursday, one day after pitching seven perfect innings in Minnesota. He said he woke up thinking about that performance.
“You think about what if and what could be, but at the end of the day, in the moment, it felt like the right decision,” Kershaw said Thursday. “You can’t go back now.”
Neither Kershaw nor Roberts felt regret about being removed from the game — outside of from the fan perspective — largely because of the situation itself, with Kershaw not fully built up from a shortened spring training, and coming off a season of elbow soreness and an offseason of rest.
“Would he have like to do it? Absolutely. Would I have liked to have seen him do it? Absolutely,” Roberts said Thursday. “The circumstances dictated in that moment, a decision that you’re both on board with.”
What was clear on Wednesday is that younger Kershaw absolutely would have rebelled more against being taken out, but against the Twins he seemed to savor the moment more than lament what was missing.
“The longer you’re around, the more you appreciate things and the more you realize that this doesn’t happen every day,” Kershaw said. “Getting to pitch, starting for the Los Angeles Dodgers doesn’t get to happen every day. So I do think as you get older you realize, we put in perspective a little bit more what it means to pitch and be able to do it, and that it’s not going to last forever.”
But perhaps the wisest perspective of the day came from Roberts, who said he got texts from friends and people about Kershaw’s performance and the decision to remove him from the game. But Roberts did not see anything online, he says.
“I don’t do social media, so I can only imagine what was out there,” Roberts said. “I value my sleep.”