Mookie Betts To Play Second Base Upon Return From Injured List

TODAY: Betts told reporters (including The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya) that he is planning to return either tomorrow or on Monday.  After today’s workout, Betts is feeling good enough to also play in the field, rather than work as a DH.

JULY 1: The Dodgers have been without Mookie Betts for the past two weeks, as the former AL MVP mends a fracture in his rib cage. The team, however, is optimistic that Betts could return as soon as next week, manager Dave Roberts told reporters last night (Twitter link via Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times). Betts took batting practice, played catch and fielded grounders yesterday. Interestingly, Roberts suggested that Betts could play second base, at least initially, due the shorter throws he’d be required to make.

Betts is no stranger to second base, having played the position extensively in the minors. He’s been primarily an outfielder throughout his big league tenure, of course, though he does have 182 innings at second base — 46 of which came as recently as the 2021 season. Deploying Betts at second base would seemingly push Gavin Lux into a utility role, at least initially — or he could simply take at-bats in the outfield on a regular basis, presumably at the expense of Eddy Alvarez and perhaps Trayce Thompson.

The Dodgers acquired Thompson from the Tigers with the idea of platooning him and Alvarez in right field, and Thompson has responded with a stout .292/.320/.458 showing in 25 trips to the plate (albeit with a whopping 11 punchouts in that short sample). Alvarez, meanwhile, has gone just 4-for-25 (all singles) and fanned in a third of his plate appearances. Barring a surge at the plate over the next week, it’s easy enough to see Lux taking on the left-handed share of an outfield platoon with Thompson.

Regardless of specific defensive alignment, the bigger takeaway for the Dodgers is that Betts, who’s posted yet another outstanding batting line in 2022 (.273/.349/.535), could be back in the lineup within the next ten days. The Dodgers have gone 7-5 in his absence and overtaken the now-second-place Padres by a margin of 2.5 games, but a swift return for Betts is still an obvious boon. If he’s able to return during next week’s homestand, it’d come either in a three-game series against Rockies or a four-game set against the Cubs.

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