GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called him into the manager’s office at Camelback Ranch on Thursday morning, James Outman knew something was up.
“I thought it was one of two things,” the rookie outfielder said. “Either I’m on that side (the minor-league fields) tomorrow or I’m on the roster.”
He’s on the roster. Roberts gave Outman the news that he would be on the Dodgers’ roster when they open the season at Dodger Stadium next week.
“I was expecting to cry or something but I didn’t,” Outman said of his reaction to the news delivered by Roberts, General Manager Brandon Gomes and bench coach Danny Lehman. “I was kind of just like, ‘Whoa.’ It was pretty surreal. It kind of felt like a dream. Like, ‘Did that really just happen?’”
Outman has already had one surreal experience in the big leagues. Promoted from Triple-A last July, he hit a home run in his first major-league plate appearance, had three hits in that first game and went 6 for 13 in his four-game big-league cameo.
When incumbent center fielder Cody Bellinger left via free agency this winter, a path to a big-league spot this spring opened for Outman. He barged through with a strong spring training that prompted Roberts to call Outman “big-league ready.”
“I came into camp feeling that there was a shot,” Outman said.
“It was (difficult to block out speculation about him making the roster). I was doing my best to try and ignore it the best I could. But it was definitely challenging.”
The Dodgers came to camp with three left-handed hitting outfielders with more experience than Outman – Jason Heyward, Bradley Zimmer and Steven Duggar. Outman outplayed them all.
“I think that we’re very mindful of not trying to over-evaluate spring training and it’s not just about performance, it’s about process and the head, all the stuff that we believe is going to help us this year and beyond,” Roberts said.
“I think we just feel that he’s going to be able to handle this runway. But it’s an adjustment. It’s a game of adjustments and so there are some things he does really well and there are some things he can get better at. That’s not just a young player, but that’s anyone.”
The decision to carry Outman completes the position player group with six outfielders – Mookie Betts, David Peralta, Trayce Thompson, Chris Taylor, Heyward and Outman. Betts and Taylor are also expected to play a good deal of infield with Betts potentially starting at second base against right-handers so the Dodgers can load their outfield with lefties (Peralta, Outman and Heyward).
“The next level is trying to divvy out how it makes sense for each of these five outfielders,” Roberts said. “It’s important (for Outman to get regular at-bats). He’s going to play a good bit. I want to leave it broad, but for him to be on our major-league roster and not play doesn’t make any sense at all. So with that, he’s going to play a good bit.”
The final roster decisions remaining involve which right-hander, Ryan Pepiot or Michael Grove, will take Tony Gonsolin’s spot in the rotation to start the season and which relievers will fill the final two spots in the bullpen. Six spots appear set – Evan Phillips, Brusdar Graterol, Alex Vesia, Caleb Ferguson, Yency Almonte and Shelby Miller. Phil Bickford, who is out of options, is likely to get one of the final two spots with Andre Jackson the leading candidate to fill out the bullpen because of his ability to go multiple innings.
BACK IN CAMP
Team USA teammates Will Smith and Mookie Betts returned to the Dodgers’ camp Thursday after participating in the World Baseball Classic.
“It was awesome. A lot of fun,” Smith said. “I would love to (play again in 2026). We came in after getting the silver medals and obviously we were all (upset). But we were like, ‘Alright, same team, same guys, run it back for ’26.’”
Smith was in the lineup for the Dodgers’ Cactus League game in Scottsdale on Thursday and doubled in his first at-bat. Betts stayed at Camelback Ranch and got multiple at-bats in a minor-league game (along with J.D. Martinez). Roberts said Betts will play in Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers and then all three of the Freeway Series games against the Angels (Sunday-Tuesday).
After Thursday’s game, the Dodgers trimmed their roster further by sending right-hander Tyler Cyr and infielder Devin Mann to the minor-league camp.
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