Mookie Betts playing shortstop for the first time in the major leagues — his first time at the position since during the Arizona Fall League in 2013 — and looking impressive while doing so on Friday was incredibly impressive. But that’s not the whole story.
It is incredibly fun how much of a kick Betts gets out of playing shortstop. He told reporters in Chicago after his major league debut at the position on Thursday,
“That was like a dream come true,” per Bill Plunkett at the Orange County Register.
“I think that’s his goal in life is to be a major-league shortstop,” manager Dave Roberts said, per Fabian Ardaya at The Athletic.
Betts is a well-rounded star, and one of his great strengths is his defense in right field. Indulging him every once in a while with a spot start at second base, where he’s already started four times this year, or shortstop seems fine, even with the loss of his defense in right field.
But the dark underbelly of the fun is that the Dodgers need Betts to play the middle infield occasionally, that it’s somehow not ill-advised to take their best defender out of his regular position. That’s the state of the roster right now.
Shortstop Miguel Rojas, signed as a utility man but pressed into starting duty once Gavin Lux was lost for the season, is on the injured list himself with a groin strain. Chris Taylor hurt his side and hasn’t started or batted since Monday. Luke Williams is the only player on the active roster with any real shortstop experience, but he’s really more of a utility man who plays more second and third, plus the occasional outfield.
Rojas, Taylor, and Williams this season have combined for 10 hits in 79 at-bats this season.
The Dodgers are in a rough spot at the moment.
The best version of the Dodgers includes Betts playing right field. But when facing a right-handed pitcher — like they will on Saturday in Cubs rookie Hayden Wesneski — the Dodgers have three left-handed hitters who could fill all three outfield positions with Betts playing in the infield. If it’s a choice between playing two of Williams, David Peralta, and Jason Heyward, Williams probably gets the short straw.
With a lineup currently without Will Smith, the Dodgers need all the offense they can get. As weird as it may seem, playing Betts at shortstop might make actual sense. What a weird season.