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James Outman & Jason Heyward homer, Ryan Pepiot pounds the strike zone

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

The Dodgers streak of consecutive ties ended at two, but they settled for a 7-6 win over the Royals on Saturday night in Surprise.

A lot of the talk surrounding the Dodgers roster after the Gavin Lux injury has focused on shortstop, which may be addressed at some point later this season. But as we discussed on this week’s The Lineup podcast, the more immediate benefactor for playing time will probably come from a different position.

James Outman is among that group, whether he wins the centerfield job or not. Chris Taylor playing more infield than previously planned opens the door for perhaps two outfielders to join Mookie Betts, David Peralta, and Trayce Thompson on the opening day roster.

Outman is getting an opportunity, playing in six of eight Dodgers games so far this spring, including four starts, and he leads the team with 15 plate appearances in the Cactus League. Outman is making the most of it, including two hits on Saturday, one of which was crushed over the right field bullpen.

That homer gave Outman a hit four consecutive at-bats, and he’s reached base in eight of 15 trips to the plate this spring, including a streak reaching in five straight plate appearances that ended with a sixth-inning groundout.

Another left-hander vying for the centerfield job is non-roster invitee Jason Heyward, who also homered for the second time in four days. Both were hit in Surprise.

With Betts, Peralta, and Thompson leaving in a few days for the World Baseball Classic, the next week or two will provide plenty of opportunity for outfield playing time.

In the zone

Ryan Pepiot was impressive in his second outing of the spring, striking out four of his nine batters faced. Promise remains high for the right-hander, who by average ranking is the No. 9 prospect in the Dodgers system, including rated the 55th-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America and 70th by MLB Pipeline.

The bugaboo for Pepiot through the minors to his first stint with the Dodgers last year was a lack of command, including a 10.6-percent walk rate in his minor league career. During his time with Los Angeles last season, Pepiot’s 16.9-percent walk rate was second-highest among all major league pitchers with at least 30 innings, and his 59-percent strike rate was seventh-lowest.

Throwing strikes has not been a problem though for Pepiot thus far this spring, with 28 of his 39 pitches finding the strike zone on Saturday. This spring, 75 percent of Pepiot’s pitches have been strikes, and in three innings he has yet to walk a batter, with five strikeouts.

Pepiot being in the strike zone helped the Royals plate a run in the first inning, bunching together three hits, including a pair of two-strike singles. But that’s the only real blemish in what has been a promising start for Pepiot this spring.

In the swing of things

Miguel Vargas still hasn’t yet been allowed to swing the bat in a game, as he rebounds from a hairline fracture in his right pinkie. He struck out in both at-bats Saturday, ending his string of a walk in each of his first four games with the bat on his shoulder.

While Vargas might be cleared to use his bat during games at some point next week, he has been slowly but surely ramping things up before games in camp. That included batting practice in Surprise before Saturday’s game, which was captured by Savannah McCann of Baseball America.

Up next

Sunday features the battle of Camelback Ranch, with facility co-tenants Dodgers and White Sox meet for the first time this spring (12:05 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA). Julio Urías makes his second start of the spring before heading off to the World Baseball Classic. Lucas Giolito starts for Chicago.