Spring Training Preview: Left Field
It's a revolving door. One after the other left fielders come and go for this club. And with another new year, there's another new left fielder.
With Johnny Damon's decision Saturday to join Detroit, the Braves now know that there will likely be a platoon in left field. Melky Cabrera and Matt Diaz will be the two who will split time there this year.
Diaz has been here before, and who knows, it's still possible he could be the everyday guy out there. But the Braves have had a man crush on Cabrera for awhile, so he'll likely get a chance.
Braves manager Bobby Cox is probably going to want to evaluate Cabrera, since he hasn't seen him much. Cabrera is better defensively than Diaz, and he is a switch-hitter. So there will be a few things that will make it tempting to have Cabrera out there every day.
But Diaz has been a favorite of Cox for several years now, and there's no doubt Diaz is very productive against left-handed pitchers. He hit .412 against southpaws last season, and in his four years with the Braves Diaz has hit .349 against lefties and .288 against right-handers.
When he did get a shot a few years ago to be an everyday player, Diaz had his ankle injury ruin his season. Then last year Diaz took over in right field after the Braves traded Jeff Francoeur. He hit .321 after the All-Star Break in 215 at bats with 9 home runs and 36 RBI.
So that does give you reason to wonder how Diaz could do in an everyday role. Will the Braves give him that chance this season from day one to see what he might do?
Since Cabrera can hit from both sides of the plate, it does negate the need for a platoon. And we don't even know how Cabrera would perform in a platoon.
Expect Cox to play around with the lineup in the spring. There's a chance the left fielder, whether it's Diaz or Cabrera, will hit eighth. It will depend on what the Braves do with Jason Heyward, who will be the rookie in right field.
The amount of playing time Diaz and Cabrera get, along with the spot they hit in the lineup, could be determined in spring training. But knowing Cox, he is likely to just go into the season playing his hunches, switching the two players in and out on the lineup based on his reasoning alone.
Will the combination of these two players be more productive than Garret Anderson's numbers from last year? If not, we could see yet another new left fielder on the horizon to keep the revolving door spinning once again.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly column for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
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