Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Dodgers infield shakeup: Mookie Betts to shortstop, Gavin Lux to second ‘permanent for now,’ Dave Roberts says

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The Los Angeles Dodgers are making a change at shortstop. Mookie Betts and Gavin Lux are swapping positions – Betts will play shortstop and Lux will play second – and manager Dave Roberts said Friday the move is “permanent for now,” according to The Athletic. The position change comes after Lux had throwing issues earlier this spring.

Betts played 16 games at shortstop last season and he played the position well, all things considered. They were his first games at shortstop since 2012, when he was in the lowest rungs of the minors with the Boston Red Sox. Betts began his pro career as a middle infielder before moving to the outfield in deference to Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts.

For Lux, the throwing issues this spring were hard to ignore. This recent account from the Orange County Register is jarring:

Lux has made two errors this spring, one on a ground ball, the other on a throw. That throwing error is the only time this spring that Lux has gotten the ball to first base in the air. He has repeatedly spiked throws in the dirt (or grass) well short of the first baseman even on routine plays.

Lux has had throwing issues in the past – he was held out of spring training games for some time in 2019 so we could work behind the scenes with the team’s infield instructor on his throwing – and Roberts attributed Lux’s throwing issues this spring at least in part to confidence rather than a mechanical flaw they’re working to correct. 

“Yeah, I think so,” Roberts told the Orange Country Register when asked if Lux’s issues were mental. “To do anything where you’re trying to be perfect is difficult and I do think there’s some part of it where he hasn’t played baseball in quite some time. So as he’s making plays and the transition as he’s trying to get it across the diamond, he’s trying to be too fine with it. I don’t think it’s the mechanics of it. I think it’s just freeing himself up to be free and be the athlete that he is.”

The Dodgers could put Miguel Rojas at shortstop. He was their primary shortstop last season, though that would mean taking Lux’s bat out of the lineup entirely. Rojas at short and Lux at second would mean Betts returns to the outfield, and either Jason Heyward or James Outman would have to sit on a given day. Swapping Betts and Lux is the easiest move.

Lux, 26, missed the entire 2023 season after tearing his ACL in spring training. He was one of the top prospects in baseball not too long ago, though defensive issues in the minors suggested he is better suited for second base long-term. Lux is a .253/.329/.383 hitter in 273 career MLB games, including 68 at shortstop and 169 at second base.

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