Dodgers' Andrew Toles to start in left field against the Nationals

ByDoug Padilla ESPN logo
Friday, October 7, 2016

WASHINGTON -- The surprises keep coming from first-year Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

First, it was a National League Division Series that included three catchers. Now comes news that rookie Andrew Toles will start in left field in the opening game of the series Friday against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.

"Is he starting?" Clayton Kershaw asked at his regular pre-start news conference Thursday. "That's awesome."

The conversation was brief between Toles and Roberts.

"'You're in left field tomorrow,' like he normally says," Toles said of the interaction when Roberts told him the news.

Starts against right-handed pitchers have become commonplace for Toles over the past six weeks, so with Max Scherzer on the mound for the Nationals on Friday, Toles was somewhat expecting the assignment.

"It felt pretty good [to hear it]," Toles said. "I just want to stay focused and go out there and do my best really."

He was out of baseball last year, when he was released by the Tampa Bay Rays organization, but Toles' story has been one of resilience. He was signed by the Dodgers in 2015 after the minor league season had ended and was not invited to big league camp this spring. He started the season at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and was in Los Angeles by the start of July. He played 22 games at Rancho Cucamonga, 43 at Double-A Tulsa and 17 at Triple-A Oklahoma City before the Dodgers called him up to the major leagues.

Never fazed by the situation, or so it seemed, Toles gave the Dodgers steady production. He supplied a rare dose of speed on the bases and added a plus-throwing arm into the proceedings. If a deficiency showed, it was with defense, other than throwing the ball.

Toles had a pair of three-hit games this season, the first in his 10th career game. He was batting .397 in his first 58 at-bats through the end of August and then cooled a bit in September. He ended August with a pinch-hit grand slam that gave the Dodgers a victory in the second game of a doubleheader at Colorado when it seemed as if the team would be swept in the twinbill.

"I mean, to be honest, I didn't even know we had a guy named Andrew Toles in the minor leagues," Kershaw said. "To meet him and understand where he's been and come from, and the type of guy he is, the type of player he is, it's pretty special to see for sure."

Toles batted .213 in 47 at-bats in September and dealt with a sore wrist as the regular season came to a close. He had just eight at-bats on the final road trip, after the team had clinched the division.

Roberts did not specify any other part of the Game 1 lineup, only saying, "It's going to look a lot like we've done it."

Considering that the Nationals will have right-hander Scherzer on the mound, the lineup sounds like this:Yasmani Grandal at catcher, and an infield of Adrian Gonzalez at first base, Chase Utley at second, Corey Seager at shortstop and Justin Turner at third. In addition to Toles in the outfield, Joc Pederson is expected to play center field, with Josh Reddick likely in right field. Kershaw will pitch.

Seager and Toles are two of seven rookies on the Dodgers' NLDS roster; a number of injuries forced the club to give others a chance this season. Many of those young players made the best of their opportunities, and Toles was one of them.

"We all feel like we're a part of the team," Toles said. "We said it in the meeting the other day. It's going to take all 25 of us to win a world championship. I feel personally, me and all the other rookies, we don't feel like rookies. We're just a part of the team."