Depending on how you look at it, Carl Crawford taking fly balls in center field is either a noble gesture by a player wanting to do anything he can for the team or a harsh reminder just how thin the Dodgers are in one of the most defensive challenging positions on the field.
The answer is it’s a little bit of both.
With no one taking charge of the position – be it because of injury or ineffectiveness – the Dodgers have restored to manning center field by committee.
That typically means Andre Ethier and on occasion Scott Van Slyke, neither of whom will be mistaken for your quintessential center fielder. As for Matt Kemp, who began the year in center field, he’s now in left field – a move necessitated by Kemp’s noticeable loss of speed and agility after suffering through two injury riddled seasons.
Now you can add Crawford to the mix. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly dropped that little nugget on everyone Saturday when he revealed Crawford has begun getting work in in center.
“ He played it in the minor leagues and in Tampa and they kind of moved him. But I think with our situation there’s nothing wrong with him going out there and taking some fly balls,” Mattingly said. You never know what can happen. So, you know, we encouraged him to do a little work out there.”
While Crawford brings the much-needed element of speed to center, his arm strength is severely diminished after undergoing Tommy John surgery two years ago.
Mattingly didn’t sound concerned Crawford’s throwing issues would be an issue, insisting Crawford could utilize his other assets to compensate.
“How many guys you see getting thrown out? Really, on the bases?,” Mattingly said, “It’s more about range and getting to balls. Carl really runs well. I think, like metrically, he’s been really good in left field. He’s a guy that will run a ball down for you.”
Mattingly was confident Crawford could keep runners going from first to third on outfield singles.
If not with his arm, then his legs.
“Absolutely. Because you use your speed in different ways,” Mattingly said. “That means, in case you don’t throw as well, you get to the ball quicker. You use your speed to cut down that time. You get rid of it quicker and you practice to be accurate. It’s not always about arm strength. It’s how you use the tools you have.”