Chad Billingsley needs to have a good sinker tonight

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That’s because Andre Ethier is making his first career start in center field for the Dodgers against the Diamondbacks and southpaw Wade Miley.

Manager Don Mattingly indicated last night that Ethier would make a limited number of starts in center with Matt Kemp out. Tony Gwynn Jr. will play there against righties, but shifting Ethier to center against lefties allows the Dodgers to get Scott Van Slyke’s bat in the lineup.

Unfortunately, it also makes for a pretty dreadful outfield defense. The Dodgers have Jerry Sands starting in left field alongside Ethier and Van Slyke tonight.

Now, I could live with all of that except for one thing… James Loney is starting at first base tonight. The James Loney who is hitting .152/.200/.212 in 33 at-bats against left-handers this year. The James Loney who is a career .248/.304/.361 hitter in 743 at-bats versus southpaws.

I just don’t see how the Dodgers could possibly be better off with Loney at first base tonight than with Gwynn in center and Sands at first base. Gwynn can’t hit lefties either (career .237/.291/.294 in 262 AB), but at least he’s a superior defensive center fielder. He’d make three positions better by being in the starting lineup.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.