Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts returned from the paternity list in time to see action in his team's game against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night -- a 6-2 win for the Dodgers -- and for the first time in his major-league career Betts saw time at the shortstop position.
Betts pinch-hit for Luke Williams in the top of the seventh, notched a single and then replaced Williams at short for the bottom half of the inning. The ball didn't find Betts in that frame. However, in the eighth Betts got his first career fielding chance at the most premium position on the diamond, and he turned a double play:
Prior to Thursday, Betts hadn't appeared in a game at short since 2013, when he was a 20-year-old prospect in the Red Sox system. Overall, Betts played just 14 games at short as a minor leaguer. While Betts does have MLB experience in the middle infield at second base, he's spent just 263 defensive innings there in his career. By comparison, Betts has spent more than 9,000 defensive innings in the outfield across his 10-year big-league career.
It's not often 30-year-old players appear at a position like shortstop for the first time, but Betts has the skill, athleticism and baseball smarts to pull it off, which is why Dodgers manager Dave Roberts flloated the idea earlier this week:
"Yeah, there's an opportunity… we'll see… there's a chance I might slide him over to short. It's a possibility, we'll see. … he's been clamoring for quite some time, so we'll see how it plays out."
The Dodgers have had uncertainty at short all season thanks to the torn ACL suffered by Gavin Lux during spring training. As well, fill-ins Mguel Rojas and Chris Taylor have been dealing with health issues lately. They recently called up Williams to see time at the position, but he's stretched as a major-league regular. That led to Betts getting a chance.
Betts is an accomplished hitter and base-runner, and he's won six Gold Gloves as an outfielder. As such, any kind of baseball excellence from Betts shouldn't surprise, but let's make an exception for what unfolded at Wrigley Field on Thursday night.