Prior to re-signing Justin Turner to a two-year contract, the Los Angeles Dodgers bolstered their infield depth by acquiring Sheldon Neuse in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.
The 26-year-old was not considered a possible replacement for Turner, but could still earn a spot on the Opening Day roster as a utility player, essentially filling the void of Kiké Hernandez.
Neuse played second base and third base for the Athletics during the 2019 season but additionally has experience at shortstop and left field from his days in the Minors.
“Honestly, anywhere,” he said when asked which position he is most comfortable playing. “Grew up playing shortstop, played third when I got into professional baseball, made my debut at second and I’ve played first over the past couple years here and there.
“Honestly, anywhere in the infield I feel comfortable.”
Neuse made a few defensive changes over the offseason and prioritized improving his agility. “I think just moving my feet a little bit more and getting a little quicker,” he explained.
“Kind of been at third base the last few years, and one of the things I took into the offseason was trying to cut some weight down to get more versatile. Be able to move around, be a little lighter on my feet and get quicker.
“Talking to Dave the other day, I got some groundballs at first, just kind of moving around, wanting to feel comfortable anywhere in the infield. If there’s anywhere I’d say where I’m lesser, it would be first. But definitely not uncomfortable. Just trying to make it second nature along with the other positions.”
In addition to his versatility, the Dodgers are confident they can tap into some of Neuse’s offensive potential. “I think we’re just kind of getting a feel for everything right now. Camp has been going great and I look forward to making some of those changes,” he said.
“We’ve talked some defensive stuff, and that’s been very positive. Offensively, just little things here and there, but nothing drastic at all.”
In 25 games with the Athletics in 2019, Neuse batted .250/.295/.304 with only three extra-base hits across 61 plate appearances. However, he hit 27 home runs and slugged .550 for the organization’s Triple-A affiliate that year.
“I think I was just squaring the ball up more consistently and not trying to do too much. Just keeping everything really simple,” Neuse said when asked to explain why his power numbers shot up.
Neuse sees similar career path to Max Muncy
When the Dodgers acquired Neuse last month, some compared the move to when the club signed Max Muncy in 2017. Muncy underachieved with the Athletics before making some changes to his swing and becoming a perennial power hitter for L.A.
“Definitely,” Neuse said when asked if he sees a similar career path to Muncy. “A guy that when I got into Oakland, was getting out and came over here. Just excelled and was incredible.
“Looking forward to getting to talk to him more and working with the guys here. Hopefully we can find something that clicks and allows me to excel the same way.”
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