Dodgers’ Gavin Lux gearing up to return to utility role
The Dodgers didn’t explicitly tell Gavin Lux to work on his outdoor game this winter.
But after thriving in a utility role late last season, when the natural infielder filled the outfield in several places while the team battled injuries, Lux understood that it was something he had to do – add outfield work to his off-season routine at a huge indoor training facility near his home in snowy Wisconsin.
“It’s hard to really replicate game fly balls, especially when you’re stuck indoors in Wisconsin,” he said. “But I still had the chance, with my coach, to work on the opening and your first readings and stuff like that. You could still do some drilling, but that’s not the real thing.
It made another milestone for Lux on Wednesday, as he played in the outfield in a game for the first time this spring.
Although deep down the club’s former top prospect still considers himself a midfielder, he knows versatility in the outfield will give him more opportunities on a loaded Dodgers roster that includes a shortstop. All-Star to Trea Turner and proven veteran options elsewhere in the infield. .
“I grew up playing shortstop, went second in 2019,” he said. “I love shortstop. But wherever I can play, I’m going to go out there and do it.
Lux went five innings Wednesday in left field while hitting a home run and walking a home run in the Dodgers’ 6-2 win over the Cleveland Guardians.
Earlier in the day, manager Dave Roberts said he expects Lux, 24, to continue splitting his time between second base and left field once the season begins.
“It just adds to our versatility and makes him a more valuable baseball player,” Roberts said. “He didn’t even need to be sold to her. Gavin is a smart guy and understands that gives him a chance to get more batting attacks.
This was the case for Lux last season. After struggling for the first half of the season, he was moved to triple-A side Oklahoma City in August.
When left fielder AJ Pollock was injured in early September, the Dodgers called on Lux to help add depth to the outfield.
“I think Doc called our triple A manager [Travis Barbary] and said, ‘Hey, we need him to play in left field tomorrow,'” Lux recalled. “I was like ‘Oh, here we go, let’s do this.’ Honestly, I was just glad to be back.
For the rest of the regular season, Lux became a regular presence in the roster as left fielder and center fielder. His five playoff starts have come in center field.
At first, the defensive results were mixed. Lux collided with Cody Bellinger while following a ball during a game in September, resulting in some broken ribs for Bellinger. A few weeks later, Lux left a match early after running full speed into the wall trying to get a hold.
But the more Lux played in the outfield, the more comfortable he became.
“Obviously there will be bumps there, still learning to play position,” he said, noting that he had spoken with Chris Taylor and Mookie Betts about their own transitions from the infield to the outside field.
“But I think I knocked some of them out last year,” Lux continued. “Going into this year, I kind of know what I need to work on because I have a bunch of games there.”
Roberts added, “It was a crash course. I think Gavin’s openness was the most important part of it. Now you layer his skills, it made things much easier.
As he adjusted to the outfield, Lux found rhythm at home plate. Prior to his recall in September, Lux had a career batting average of .217 in the big league. In the final month of the season, he hit .360 with one home run, nine RBIs and more walks than strikeouts.
“I don’t think it’s anything super mechanical,” he said. “Coming back here and having these opportunities in the outfield, I think just freed me up a bit.
“I just wanted to win and make the playoff roster, so I think all the internal focus was on winning instead of, ‘Oh, my swing doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel right. ‘ ”
Lux’s future role with the Dodgers remains unclear. Turner will be a free agent after this season, creating a possible shortstop opening in 2023. The team also doesn’t have a long-term second baseman, although Taylor’s new contract lasts at least until 2025 and Max Muncy has a club option. for next season.
For now, Lux said he was happy to continue in his hybrid role. He spent the winter getting ready to play all over the field. And he hopes he can maintain the momentum he has built since the end of last season.
“I mean, you look at our roster and it’s like the NL All-Star team,” Lux said. “You look at what CT [Chris Taylor] in recent years have rebounded, and it has been very successful. I think doing something like that is probably the role and it suits me very well. Just get out there no matter what to help us win and do the little things right.
Clayton Kershaw threw 37 pitches in his second start of the spring, going 2⅓ innings with two runs, two hits, four strikeouts and a walk. He said he continued to feel good after his elbow injury from last season and was encouraged on Wednesday by some of the changes he launched, a pitch he tinkered with during spring training these last years.
The Dodgers have officially announced the signing of infielder Hanser Alberto. He will earn $1.6 million this year and has a $2 million club option for 2023 (or a $250,000 buyout). In a corresponding move, the Dodgers designated infielder Matt Beaty for assignment. Beaty had one minor league option remaining, but Roberts said “if you look at our roster construction, the track he would potentially get, that just wasn’t going to happen for him here with us.”