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Chris Taylor’s opportunities will come against left-handers, for now

MLB: Spring Training-Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — Chris Taylor followed up an injury-plagued down season in 2022 with the worst spring training of his career, entering Sunday night’s Freeway Series opener against the Angels with just six hits in 48 at-bats this spring, striking out at a 40.4-percent clip.

Dave Roberts said he’s seen some improvement from Taylor recently, even if the results haven’t yet shown it.

“He was really searching, was out of whack. I think he’s found a little something. It’s still a work in progress,” Roberts said. “But I think the last couple of days for me, he’s had better intent. I think he’s seen the ball much better. The swing is shorter.”

Taylor is in the lineup on Sunday night, with Angels southpaw Tucker Davidson on the mound at Dodger Stadium. The Angels will start left-handed pitchers in all three games of the Freeway Series, with Tyler Anderson and Reid Detmers pitching in the two games in Anaheim. That could be fortuitous for Taylor, as facing left-handed pitchers will likely be his main source of playing time in the early going, at least until he starts hitting.

Dodgers-Angels lineups

Angels Pos Dodgers Pos
Angels Pos Dodgers Pos
Ward LF Betts RF
Trout CF Freeman (L) 1B
Ohtani (L) DH Martinez DH
Drury 1B Muncy (L) 3B
Renfroe RF Taylor LF
Rengifo (S) 2B Thompson CF
Urshela SS Vargas 2B
O'Hoppe C Rojas SS
Jackson 3B Barnes C
Clayton Kershaw vs. Tucker Davidson on the mound

Taylor doesn’t have discernible difference in his career splits, and last year he was actually better against right-handed pitchers (101 wRC+, compared to just 73 wRC+ against lefties). But with three left-handed-hitting outfielders, and lefty bats at both corner infield spots, Taylor’s at-bats figure to come mostly against southpaws.

“We’ve got other opportunities, and some guys that I want to play,” Roberts said.

Roberts said Sunday’s lineup, which includes Taylor in left field and Trayce Thompson in center field, is one the Dodgers could use often this season, though usually with Will Smith catching. Austin Barnes is starting Sunday, but Roberts said Smith will catch in the final two exhibition games against the Angels.

The lineup also includes Miguel Vargas at second base, which figures to be the case most of the time against pitchers of either hand. That’s been obvious since FanFest at Dodger Stadium in early February, and through spring training, when all 17 of Vargas’ starts came at second base.

The club even had Vargas play six games at second base when he wasn’t allowed to swing the bat, while dealing with a hairline fracture in his right pinkie.

Vargas as the regular second baseman was pretty clear to most. Except, well, for Vargas.

Over the last few days of camp at Camelback Ranch, Ryan Pepiot, James Outman, and Andre Jackson were all seprately called into Roberts’ office to get the news that they made the team. It’s the first opening day roster for all of them. It’s also the first opening day roster for Vargas, who had a question for Roberts on Saturday, the final day of camp.

“With Vargas, I maybe dropped the ball a little bit,” Roberts explained.

“Because it was all assumed that he was going to be on the team, I didn’t feel the need to call him in,” Roberts said, laughing by this point as he recounted the story. “He was asking what his status was going into the Freeway Series.

“I said, ‘Hey, you’re starting at second base this year, so congratulations.’ And he just kind of said, ‘Great, thanks!’”