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James Outman starts in center field on opening day, his first game at Dodger Stadium

Los Angeles Dodgers v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — In his first career game at Dodger Stadium, James Outman will start in center field and bat eighth for the Dodgers on opening day against the Diamondbacks.

Outman made the opening day roster after a strong spring training both offensively and defensively, continuing a trend for the outfielder dating back to last season. He tore the cover off the ball down the stretch for Triple-A Oklahoma City, which came after a whirlwind major league debut that saw Outman collect six hits in four games, including two doubles plus a home run in his first major league at-bat.

Those four games came on the road, at Coors Field in Denver and at Oracle Park in San Francisco. While Thursday will be Outman’s first real game at Dodger Stadium, he’s not entirely unfamiliar with the confines at Chavez Ravine. He played in Sunday night’s Freeway Series exhibition against the Angels, and homered in his only at-bat. That was his first at-bat ever at Dodger Stadium.

Dodgers/D-backs lineups

D-backs Pos Dodgers Pos
D-backs Pos Dodgers Pos
Lewis DH Betts RF
Marte (S) 2B Freeman (L) 1B
Guerriel Jr. LF Smith C
Walker 1B Muncy (L) 3B
Longoria 3B Martinez DH
Ahmed SS Peralta (L) LF
Carroll (L) CF Vargas 2B
Moreno C Outman (L) CF
McCarthy (L) RF Rojas SS
Julio Urías vs. Zac Gallen on the mound

Strong first impressions have become a thing for Outman over the years, save for the very beginning of his professional career. After getting drafted out of Sacramento State in the seventh round in 2018 by the Dodgers, Outman started his career at rookie-level Ogden. His first career hit was a home run, but it came after an 0-for-23 start with 10 strikeouts.

Since then, it’s been pretty much gangbusters right away to start every level for Outman.

He singled in his first game with Class-A Great Lakes. Outman hit a two-run single in his first at-bat in Double-A Tulsa. He walked in his first plate appearance in the Arizona Fall League, in a non-start. But in Outman’s first start in the AFL, he homered in his first at-bat.

In his first game with Triple-A Oklahoma City, Outman had two hits, and drove in two runs. That was a month before his major league debut, in which he homered in his first at-bat but also doubled and singled at Coors Field.

That Outman is starting on opening day is also notable for how relatively early it is in his career. While his debut last year was memorable, he only played four games.

Outman is the first Dodger to start on opening day in one of the first five games of his career since Blake DeWitt, who was thrust into third base duties after injuries to both Andy LaRoche and Nomar Garciaparra late in spring training in 2008.

Outman is only the 12th Los Angeles Dodger to start on opening day in one of his first five major league games. Before DeWitt, the last few to do so were Mike Ramsey (1987, in center field), Mariano Duncan (1985, second base), Bill Buckner (1970, left field), and Steve Garvey (1970, third base).

The last such Dodgers rookie starting on opening day in one of their first five career games who had an extra-base hit was way back in 1948, when Brooklyn first baseman Preston Ward doubled and singled against the Giants at the Polo Grounds.

That would certainly be something if Outman can duplicate that performance, but strong first impressions are nothing new.

“You only get one first opening day,” Outman said. “Soak it all in.”