Why Is Mookie Betts Playing Shortstop for the Dodgers?

Push coming to shove is a consistent, if sometimes unwelcome, intruder in the game. The Tigers famously moved center fielder Mickey Stanley to shortstop for the 1968 World Series, removing the light-hitting regular Ray Oyler. Stanley had never played the position before yet he managed it well and Detroit defeated the Cardinals in seven games.

Decades later, in 2012, Detroit had once again developed a vexing hole when Victor Martinez suffered a season-ending knee injury. Unlike Lux’s injury, Martinez’s happened well before the season started. So the Tigers signed the free agent slugger Prince Fielder and shoved an agreeable, but not particularly graceful, Miguel Cabrera from first base to third.

“You came up as a shortstop, this should be easy for you,” Dino Ebel, who was the Angels’ third-base coach that year and now has that role with the Dodgers, teased Cabrera when the their teams faced each other.

“He was like, ‘Yeah, here I am, playing the left side of the diamond again,’” Ebel said.

Betts was drafted as a shortstop by Boston in 2011, and unlike Cabrera he had the physique to stay in the position on a long-term basis. But with the All-Star Dustin Pedroia established at second base in the majors and Xander Bogaerts already in the Red Sox system, Betts moved to the outfield. Before his recent cameos, he had last played shortstop professionally in the Arizona Fall League in 2013 and had logged only 112 professional innings at the position.

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