LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers placed Mookie Betts on the paternity list ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Mets as the star outfielder and his wife, Brianna, welcomed their second child early Tuesday morning.
Although a stint on the paternity list could be extended for up to three days, Betts isn’t expected to be away from the team for long. In fact, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expects him back in the lineup for Wednesday’s final against the Mets.
When Betts returns to the team on Wednesday, the 30-year-old will not be playing on the wrong court, a position where he has won six Gold Glove Awards during his decorated career. Instead, Betts will start at shortstop for the first time in his Major League career.
“There’s a chance I’ll slide him to shortstop,” Roberts said with a smile. “He looks extremely natural. The guy can play anywhere on a baseball diamond.
Betts, of course, arrived as a second baseman in the Red Sox’s minor league system. He was forced to take the right field in order to speed up the process to get him into the Majors. Since then, Betts has become one of baseball’s best right-wing defensive outfielders, winning his most recent Gold Glove Award at the position last season.
But despite his natural ability in the outfield, the infield has always been Betts’ true passion. He gets more playing time at second base this season. Roberts said Betts had been “pushing” for a few years that the Dodgers let him play shortstop, the position he held growing up.
“I think there were reservations about him playing second base last year and he quickly put them to bed,” Roberts said. “So it’s going to be the same.”
Sliding Betts to shortstop is a fun development, but it also comes from the need for a struggling Dodgers team that entered Tuesday’s game with a record below .500 after 17 games for the first time since the 2018 season.
With Miguel Rojas struggling at home plate and Chris Taylor dealing with a left-sided injury that will sideline him for at least a few days, the Dodgers needed to explore their options. That’s when Roberts called Betts on Tuesday morning and told him of his intention to bring him into the game at shortstop. Betts, whose third-seeded position appears to be right field, was pleased with the decision.
“I think when you’re talking about the third string in any position, there are things that have to happen that you have to kind of get through,” Roberts said. “But to have Mookie as a third string to anything, I think teams can do a lot worse.”
Although Betts takes ground balls at shortstop before almost every game, it will be interesting to see how he fares playing one of the most demanding positions on the diamond. Betts hasn’t started a professional game at shortstop since 2012, when he was in Low-A with the Red Sox.
It could be a one game thing for Betts. He will always be the team’s primary right fielder. But how much he plays at shortstop and second base will ultimately be determined by how quickly Taylor recovers from injury. If Taylor is sidelined for an extended period, Betts will get even more infield looks.
“He’s been calling for a while, so we’ll see how it goes,” Roberts said.