PO­SI­TIONED PLAY­ERS

Im­prov­ing out­field de­fense is a Dodgers pri­or­ity, and the team is us­ing de­tailed in­for­ma­tion to deploy its per­son­nel ef­fec­tively

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Dy­lan Her­nan­dez

Yasiel Puig thinks this could be the sea­son he wins his first Gold Glove Award.

If he doesn’t, it won’t be be­cause he spent part of the sea­son in the mi­nor leagues, as he did as a rookie. Or be­cause he was moved from right field to cen­ter in the mid­dle of the sea­son, as was the case last year.

The most sig­nif­i­cant ob­sta­cle that re­mains is his drift­ing mind.

“I’m try­ing to fix that prob­lem that I had of not con­cen­trat­ing,” the can­non-armed Cuban said in Span­ish. “I’m pre­pared for ev­ery pitch. Maybe that’s what I need to win a Gold Glove.”

The Dodgers are count­ing on it. One of their pri­or­i­ties this sea­son is to im­prove their out­field de­fense, a process they started by mak­ing rookie Joc Ped­er­son their start­ing cen­ter fielder and mov­ing Puig back to his nat­u­ral po­si­tion in right.

As the team en­ters a three-game se­ries against the Colorado Rock­ies, man­age­ment is en­cour­aged. Puig, who is ex­pected to re­turn to the lineup af­ter sit­ting out two games be­cause of a sore left ham­string, has looked alert in right field.

Ped­er­son was flat-out spec­tac­u­lar in the most re­cent game, mak­ing a div­ing catch in right-cen­ter field and throw­ing out a run­ner at the plate on sep­a­rate plays Wed­nes­day in the Dodgers’ 5-2 victory over the Seat­tle Mariners.

“I think when you have a nat­u­ral cen­ter fielder out there, I think that just makes ev­ery­thing a whole lot eas­ier,” said third base coach Lorenzo Bundy, who over­sees the out­field de­fense. In­for­ma­tion helps too. “We got pa­pers and num­bers and charts now to where they tell us how to stand,” left fielder Carl Craw­ford said.

The statis­tics come from the new front of­fice, which is headed by the team’s new pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions, An­drew Fried­man.

Manager Don Mat­tingly said Fried­man’s group is pro­vid­ing coaches with more de­tailed in­for­ma­tion than their pre­de­ces­sors re­ceived, as it fac­tors in who is pitch­ing for the Dodgers, as well as counts.

Armed with that in­for­ma­tion, Bundy vis­its each of the out­field­ers and talks to them about how they should po­si­tion them­selves when cer­tain hit­ters are at the plate.

“I like to do it as close to game time with­out af­fect­ing their pregame of­fen­sive prepa­ra­tion,” Bundy said.

Bundy is par­tic­u­larly im­pressed with Ped­er­son’s abil­ity to re­tain in­for­ma­tion, de­scrib­ing it as ex­cep­tional for a rookie.

For his part, Ped­er­son said he em­braces the use of statis­tics.

“Num­bers don’t lie,” Ped­er­son said. “It’s ac­cu­rate. It’s pretty funny. Some­times, they hit and you don’t even move, and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ ”

Bundy also praised the coach­a­bil­ity of backup out­field­ers Scott Van Slyke and An­dre Ethier.

Bundy pointed specif­i­cally to a play Van Slyke made Mon­day, when he threw out Mariners first base­man Lo­gan Mor­ri­son as he at­tempted to stretch a sin­gle into a dou­ble. Mor­ri­son hit the ball to­ward the left-field cor­ner but Van Slyke was able to cut it off be­cause of his po­si­tion­ing be­fore Bran­don McCarthy de­liv­ered the pitch.

“If not, that’s a dou­ble,” Bundy said.

Even af­ter the game starts, Bundy re­mains en­gaged.

“First time through, I just want to make sure they’re where they’re sup­posed to be,” he said. “I’m watch­ing ev­ery pitch of ev­ery at­bat. Some­times, they may for­get or they’re maybe two steps here or two steps that way.”

If that hap­pens, Bundy sig­nals to them from the dugout.

“Ev­ery­thing starts with Joc,” Bundy said. “For the most part, he’s ready. If Joc’s in the right spot, then I can shift to Puig or I can shift to C.C.”

Some­times, Bundy will call for ad­just­ments in the mid­dle of the game.

“If we’re out there and they feel like a hit­ter might be do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent or he’s foul­ing the ball off a cer­tain way, you’ll see him wav­ing at us to move or ro­tate,” Craw­ford said.

Ini­tially, Bundy ad­mit­ted, Ped­er­son made him ner­vous.

“Joc’s a fid­geter,” Bundy said. “Af­ter a pitch is made at home plate, he takes a walk. At first, every­body was wor­ried if he would get back to the right spot. But he does. He gets back to where he needs to be.”

This was noth­ing new to Puig, who called Ped­er­son “loco” — the Span­ish word for crazy.

Puig and Ped­er­son played along­side each other in Class A in 2012. They also started the fol­low­ing sea­son to­gether in dou­ble A.

“He’s al­ways been in cen­ter and I’ve al­ways been in right,” Puig said. “I like play­ing with him.”

Ped­er­son said the feel­ings are mu­tual.

“We kind of have a feel for each other,” Ped­er­son said.

Ped­er­son can al­ready see the change in Puig’s mind-set.

“He’s mov­ing a lot,” Ped­er­son said. “He’s def­i­nitely im­prov­ing. He was al­ready one of the bet­ter right field­ers in the game. He’s po­si­tion­ing him­self where we’re sup­posed to be po­si­tioned.”

Puig said he is mak­ing an ef­fort to com­part­men­tal­ize the of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive parts of the game, so that dis­ap­point­ment in one area doesn’t ad­versely af­fect the other.

“It would bother me when I didn’t hit,” Puig said. “It still both­ers me, but I know I have to do some­thing. If I don’t hit, I have to make up for it with my de­fense. If I don’t hit and I don’t field, the team loses me com­pletely.”

Bundy said this is only the start. Puig is 24. Ped­er­son turns 23 next week.

They could be paired to­gether in the out­field for sev­eral more sea­sons.

“This is the foun­da­tion for the fu­ture,” Bundy said. Trans­ac­tion

Right-han­der Car­los Frias was op­tioned to triple-A Ok­la­homa City. Frias was re­called for the se­ries fi­nale against the Mariners on Wed­nes­day, but didn’t pitch. Up next

Clay­ton Ker­shaw (0-1, 5.84 earned-run av­er­age) will face the Colorado Rock­ies and Kyle Ken­drick (1-1, 6.00) at Dodger Sta­dium at 7 p.m. On the air: TV: Sports-Net LA; Ra­dio: 570, 1020.

Wally Skalij Los An­ge­les Times

JOC PED­ER­SON makes a div­ing catch. The rookie cen­ter fielder’s abil­ity to re­tain in­for­ma­tion im­presses the Dodgers coach who over­sees out­field de­fense.

Harry How Getty Images

YASIEL PUIG makes a run­ning catch on open­ing day. “I’m pre­pared for ev­ery pitch,” the right fielder says. “Maybe that’s what I need to win a Gold Glove.”

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