Juan Rivera will get the vast majority of starts in left field for the Dodgers this season, manager Don Mattingly said Wednesday, meaning Tony Gwynn Jr. and Jerry Sands primarily will be bench players.
"I think what we have in mind is basically Juan, based on the way he played last year,'' Mattingly said. "That is the way we want to go pretty much day in and day out. Juan is going to need days off. I don't think Juan is going to play 162 or even 150, but that is the way we want to go most of the time, and we can mix and match with Tony Gwynn and Jerry Sands as far as lefty-righty.''
Rivera hit .274 with five homers and 46 RBI after the Dodgers acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays at last year's All-Star break, providing a power threat in the middle of the order and valuable protection for Matt Kemp. Although Gwynn likely was always going to be a bench player, there was some concern that the development of Sands, one of the organization's top prospects, would suffer from playing part time.
However, both Rivera and Sands can play first base as well as the outfield, and Mattingly said last week that he will work to make sure Sands gets enough at-bats to justify his being in the majors. Both Rivera and Sands are right-handed hitters, so it is conceivable both will be in the lineup most of the time whenever the Dodgers face a left-handed starting pitcher.
James Loney, who will get most of the starts at first base, is a left-handed hitter, as is right fielder Andre Ethier. Loney hit .213 against lefties last year, with just two of his 12 home runs, and Ethier hit .200 against them, with just one of his 11 home runs.