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Season Preview: Versatility is key to Isotopes lineup

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Click here for part one on the pitching staff.

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The Albuquerque Isotopes are in many ways best described as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ reserve team. In that respect, having a roster full of players who can play multiple positions is a must and this year’s Isotopes were versatility in mind.

With perhaps only three exceptions, every player on the team is more than capable of playing at least two or more positions on the field.

Catching

The main exceptions to the ultra-versatile theme are the men behind the plate for Albuquerque. Familiar face Tim Federowicz will be joined by veteran Miguel Olivo (.203/.250/.392 with the Marlins) and youngster Griff Erickson (.199/.324/.414 at Chattanooga), though the latter will open on the disabled list.

Federowicz hit a blistering .418/.500/.848 in 21 games with the Isotopes last season to finally force his way back to Los Angeles, where he spent the rest of the season. Still, because he had an option remaining and fellow backup Drew Butera did not, Federowicz finds himself back at Triple-A.

“Basically I have to prove that I don’t belong here again,” Federowicz said. “And we’ll see what happens.

“I’m excited to be able to play. Up there, these first couple of weeks they have so many off-days I wouldn’t have played anyways, so I actually get some in-game action. When they need me I feel like they’ll call me up.”

Infield

Other than first baseman Clint Robinson (.254/.353/.421, 13 HR, 55 RBI at Buffalo and New Hampshire), the rest of the Isotopes infield figures to be a constant mix of players shifting between positions, all at the discretion of manager Damon Berryhill.

“The flexibility that I have to go infield to the outfield and outfield to the infield, it just makes DB’s job a lot easier when it comes to double switches,” said Jamie Romak (.242/.322/.461, 22 HR, 74 RBI at Memphis), who can play first, third and the outfield corners. “It certainly helps him and it helps our own careers in the sense that if you’re being productive, you’re not pigeon-holed into one position.”

Miguel Rojas (.233/.303/.307, 5 HR at Chattanooga), who can play second, shortstop and third, agreed.

“Yeah, for me it’s pretty important to have guys like that in the National League for the double switches,” Rojas said. “If you have guys that can play everywhere, you can give them a day off where it’s fine for everybody.”

The other infielders are Brendan Harris (.206/.252/.355 with the Angels), David Adams (.224/.312/.353 at Norfolk in 2012) and Walter Ibarra (.276/.308/.367 at Scranton and Trenton).

Outfield

Dodgers No. 1 prospect Joc Pederson is one happy guy. Not only has he arrived at Triple-A, but he gets to play in the outfield with three players who all have past experience in Albuquerque.

“It’s freaking awesome,” Pederson said. “They have so much experience, defense and offense, how to play that hill back there, how to go about the travel a bit better, where are good places to eat … just overall help you out.”

The Dodgers will be happy that the talented Pederson (.278/.381/.497, 22 HR, 31 stolen bases) is ready after a big year at Chattanooga. While Pederson said he is humbled that people think so highly of him, he is far from a finished product.

“Work on my defense and I think baserunning could be a little bit better,” Pederson said. “Overall hitting, lefties, righties, there’s always improvements. You can never be good enough, never be satisfied. We have good coaches and coordinators that come in and let you know what you need to work on more of and what less of. I listen to them a lot and trust what (advice) they give me.”

The returning faces all played in Albuquerque in different seasons. Nick Buss (.303/.363/.525, 17 HR, 100 RBI, 21 stolen bases) is back from last season, when he was the Isotopes' MVP. Albuquerque native Brian Cavazos-Galvez (.263/.303/.366, 7 HR at Chattanooga) was last here in 2012. Trayvon Robinson (.247/.329/.394, 11 HR at Norfolk and Bowie) re-signed with the Dodgers after he was traded away late in 2011.

“It’s a great group of outfielders,” Buss said. “It’s nice, because three of us have experience here, so we’ve got a good idea about playing defense here and just what to expect out there. The four of us get along really well, too, which is great.”

The Isotopes will face Tacoma in their home opener April 11 at 7:05 p.m.

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