DENVER -- The Dodgers have started three left fielders through their first six games, with Xavier Paul, Marcus Thames, and Tony Gwynn Jr. making two starts each through Wednesday's series finale with the Rockies.
Each outfielder offers something different to the mix, with Paul and Thames offering the best bat from the left and right side, respectively, and Gwynn earning time with his defensive edge.
"I want someone to kind of take control," manager Don Mattingly said of the three-way platoon. "But when you look at that spot, it's a spot where we can mix and match out there a little bit. Yesterday, [Clayton Kershaw] was pitching, we're in a big ballpark, it's a good day for Tony. ... Today, obviously a big ballpark again, but the way the lineup is set up with Casey [Blake] in there, you're looking for a little thump in the back end."
With center fielder Matt Kemp and right fielder Andre Ethier anchoring the outfield on a day-to-day basis, Mattingly seems content to let game circumstances determine his third starter. Thames has drawn the start against the two southpaws the Dodgers have faced so far this season, and having Gwynn, a natural center fielder, available in left gives Mattingly an opportunity to field three exceptional gloves -- or to tinker further if Kemp or Ethier needs a break. Gwynn also offers a dimension of speed to the game.
"'X' obviously gives us speed also," Mattingly said of Paul, Wednesday's starter in left. "He doesn't have the reputation of being the same type of outfielder as Tony, but he's got a little more thump in his bat. He's the kind of guy who can hit a ball out of the ballpark, or at least drive the ball in gaps. 'X' gives you that chance of a little more pop in your lineup, a little bit more protection back there. I've got him behind Juan [Uribe] today, [batting seventh]. You try to set guys up to have protection, and kind of balance out your lineup."