GLENDALE, Ariz. — Corey Seager is playing the field again.
Seager played five innings of defense in a “B” game Monday, handling two ground balls without incident (and hitting a home run in his first at-bat). They were Seager’s first two throws in game action this spring as the Dodgers “slow-played” his offseason rehab program for last year’s elbow problem.
Seager said it was “nice to be in the flow of a game and not just DH-ing” as he had in eight Cactus League games (going 4 for 21) and downplayed the need to test his elbow in game conditions.
“It was good,” the Dodgers shortstop said after the game. “I wasn’t really worried about that. I was kind of more just worried about getting into some games and getting into the flow of things.
“When you first start throwing again you never know if it’s going to – whatever. So once you threw a ball and there really wasn’t much, once you kind of start extending and (feel) nothing still then you don’t really worry about much.”
Seager is expected to extend his playing time to seven innings at shortstop either in another “B” game or the Dodgers’ Cactus League game against the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night.
Playing shortstop in March is all well and good. But the Dodgers’ concern has to be whether Seager will have a recurrence of the elbow pain during the season, forcing him to the sidelines as it did in late August and early September last year.
At this point, Seager is confident that won’t happen.
“Yeah. I mean, right now there’s nothing telling me otherwise so I don’t really want to start thinking about if and when or whatever,” he said. “For right now – yeah, pretty confident.”
Seager has played in 302 of a possible 324 games over the past two seasons and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has hinted at possibly giving him more days off this year as a way of warding off any potential return of the elbow and back problems Seager dealt with last year.
Asked if he was interested in taking more days off this year, Seager repeated his one-word answer three times, shaking his head.
“No,” he said. “No. No.”
With Seager unavailable to play shortstop in Cactus League games, Roberts has given more playing time to Kike’ Hernandez and Chris Taylor at the position, preparing them for potential service there during the season.
That has been one factor in Hernandez (who started at first base Monday against the Brewers) getting more playing time against right-handed pitching this spring. Only 35 of Hernandez’s 118 starts over the past two seasons have come against right-handed pitchers. But Roberts said Hernandez has made changes in his approach and swing in order to improve against right-handed pitching and has “done nothing but prove that he deserves more opportunities” to play against right-handed pitching.
“He’s shown really well against right-handed pitching this spring so we’re going to keep running him out there,” Roberts said. “But Kike’ is a priority to play against lefties.”
In the big leagues, Hernandez has hit .270 with 19 home runs and an .883 OPS against left-handed pitching, .207 with nine home runs and a .589 OPS in actually more plate appearances vs. right-handers.
Closer Kenley Jansen also pitched an inning in the Dodgers “B” game on Monday. Jansen said he had no issues with the hamstring that bothered him on Friday, prompting him to be scratched from his scheduled Cactus League debut.
Jansen is now expected to pitch in Thursday’s Cactus League game against the Kansas City Royals.
Jansen retired the side in order in his inning Monday, striking out two. He said he threw his slider nine times in the 13-pitch inning, including for strike three against White Sox catcher Welington Castillo.
“Today it’s just work on my slider. That’s my whole process this year,” Jansen said. “Throw it for a strike. So far so good.”
In his career, Jansen has thrown his cutter 92 percent of the time.
Infielder Rob Segedin left camp Monday morning to be with his wife, who was having labor induced to deliver their baby. Chase Utley returned to camp after missing two days in order to attend to a family matter. … The Dodgers continued paring their roster Monday. Top pitching prospect Walker Buehler, left-handers Manny Banuelos and Edward Paredes, infielder Max Muncy, catcher Will Smith and Segedin were sent to minor-league camp. Journeyman reliever Mark Lowe was given his release. Buehler is still expected to pitch in Friday’s Cactus League game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.