Don Mattingly really, really doesn’t want to play Matt Kemp in center field

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Here’s how much Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is committed to keeping Matt Kemp from playing center field: Not only is Mattingly regularly playing Andre Ethier there despite his clearly being stretched range-wise, yesterday Scott Van Slyke got the nod in center field while Kemp remained in left field.

Van Slyke is 27 years old and it was the first time he’s ever started a game in center field as a big leaguer. Even in the minors he rarely played center field, spending much more time in the corner spots and at first base. In fact, last time Van Slyke played center field in the minors was way back in 2010 at Double-A.

Kemp has nearly 7,000 career innings in center field, but to keep from using him there now Mattingly is willing to make Ethier his everyday center fielder and use a career-long left fielder/first baseman like Van Slyke in center field.

Mattingly predictably explained the decision by saying that he wants to give Kemp time to get comfortable as a regular left fielder rather than moving him back and forth, but … still. Ethier is perhaps a passable center fielder if you squint very, very hard, but Van Slyke in center field isn’t even squint-able.

Mets sign Jose Lobaton to minor league deal

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The Mets signed catcher Jose Lobaton to a minor league contract, the team announced Friday. The deal includes an invitation to spring training, where it’s assumed Lobaton will be in the mix for a backup role behind Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki.

Lobaton, 33, is coming off of a four-year stint with the Nationals. He put up his worst career numbers in 2017, producing -0.6 fWAR after slashing just .170/.248/.277 with four home runs in 158 plate appearances. While he’ll give the Mets little to work with at the plate, his near-decade of experience behind the dish should make him a decent emergency option, if nothing else.

In the meantime, the Mets are expected to roll with a d’Arnaud/Plawecki platoon to start the season. Both catchers saw slight upticks in value over the 2017 season: d’Arnaud turned in 0.8 fWAR after hitting a career-high 16 home runs, while Plawecki collected 0.6 fWAR and three homers after raising his batting line over the Mendoza Line for the first time since 2015.