Notice anything unusual about this lineup card? I’ll give you a second (cue the Jeopardy theme).
Alright, time’s up. While seeing Dodgers star Mookie Betts hit leadoff isn’t anything out of the ordinary—skipper Dave Roberts has slotted him there for much of his debut season in Los Angeles—the position listed by Betts’ name isn’t the one we’re used to. The 27-year-old drew a rare start at second base—his first since 2014—in Thursday’s series finale at Arizona. Betts acclimated himself nicely, making the most of his limited opportunities (he recorded two assists) in the Dodgers’ 5-2 defeat.
While some were surely puzzled to see Betts, a four-time Gold Glove-winning right fielder, cameo at second base Thursday night, there may actually be a method to L.A.’s madness. With the Dodgers a virtual lock for October—their impressive 32-13 mark through 45 games is easily the best in MLB—Los Angeles, unlike most clubs, has the luxury of experimenting down the stretch ahead of what should be a deep postseason run.
Betts is obviously most valuable to the Dodgers as an outfielder—he’s been arguably the best in the business since making the transition to right field early in his career. But if Mookie’s positional versatility allows the Dodgers to fit another bat into their already-potent lineup or prepare for a doomsday scenario (a mid-game injury departure or perhaps a marathon extra-innings game), why wouldn’t L.A. try it out?
Unbeknownst to many, Betts actually came up through the minors as a middle infielder, beginning his Red Sox tenure at second base (he was filling in for an injured Dustin Pedroia) in 2014. Once he became a right-field fixture, Betts rarely returned to his former infield stomping grounds, making only a single appearance at second base from 2015-19.
One of the best hitters on the planet, a multiple-time Gold Glove winner (now moonlighting at a second position) and perennial 30-30 threat, is there anything Betts can’t do on a baseball diamond? Did I mention he’s also bowled a 300? Whatever the Dodgers are paying this man, it isn’t enough.