A solid spring training got Jake Lamb noticed, but the veteran non-roster invitee won’t join the Dodgers major league roster just yet. Lamb was reassigned to minor league camp on Sunday night.
With the trade of AJ Pollock to the White Sox on Friday, a potential roster spot opened up. Lamb, who played first base and both corner outfield spots this spring, was a candidate, as was veteran outfielder Kevin Pillar, who has experience in all three outfield positions. That roster spot instead figures to go to Edwin Ríos, who’s shown no ill effects after surgery to repair a torn labrum last May, though that hasn’t been made official just yet.
“Jake’s a big league ballplayer. We think very highly of Edwin,” manager Dave Roberts told reporters in Anaheim on Sunday. It’s something that having the options. If you do move a player like AJ Pollock, you have to be able to backfill, with talent. What we have in-house, we can do that.”
Lamb signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers on March 14, and should he make the majors would earn at the rate of $1.5 million for the season, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
The 31-year-old Lamb has spent the bulk of his career at third base, but this spring has played first base, right field, and left field, playing in 12 of the Dodgers’ 15 Cactus League contests in Arizona.
Time in the outfield is relatively new for Lamb, who first played in both left field and right field in 2021 with the White Sox. But 505 of his 561 career defensive starts (90 percent) have come at third base.
Lamb was an All-Star with the Diamondbacks in 2017, part of a two-year run that saw him hit 59 home runs for Arizona. But since then it’s been a struggle for Lamb, playing for four teams — D-backs, A’s, White Sox, Blue Jays — dealing first with shoulder surgery then poor play. Since the start of 2018, Lamb has only hit .203/.308/.355, an 80 wRC+.
Aside from physical challenges, Lamb also had to deal with the transition from regular to reserve, which he discussed with Bill Plunkett at the Orange County Register:
“Those were some serious mental demons I had to fight,” he said of his journey the past three years. “Any time I made a swing change and it didn’t work, I just wanted to go back to what I was thinking back then. But I had shoulder surgery. It was different. Things moved differently.
“My mind – I can’t speak enough to that – is in a much better state. I feel I’m stronger than I was back then. My swing is in a better spot. Now it’s just about going out there and showing that.”
A swing overhaul was on the docket last year for Lamb, trying to find his way back to All-Star, or even regular form. Roberts heaped high praise on Lamb’s new swing, per Fabian Ardaya at The Athletic:
“It will translate this season and seasons going forward. … He really found something.
“Having to fight back … he’s to the other side. I think his best years are ahead of him. I really do.”
Lamb might make the roster at some point in 2022. Just not to start the season.