Roberts: Pederson is Dodgers' center fielder

Roberts: Pederson is Dodgers' center fielder

PHOENIX -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts headed off speculation by declaring on Friday that Joc Pederson is his center fielder.

Roberts was only announcing publicly what he had already told Pederson before Spring Training even started.

"He told me that I was his guy," said Pederson. "He just wanted me to be myself. He knew in the offseason I worked hard on the things I learned last year."

Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs

The possibility that Roberts was considering other options arose because of extended playing time being given this spring to Trayce Thompson, who was acquired during the offseason from the White Sox.

But Roberts and the new coaching staff is committed to helping Pederson reclaim the All-Star form of the first half of his rookie year, and not the second half of last season, when the 23-year-old lost his starting job while hitting .178 after the All-Star break.

"As we saw last year, things can change," said Pederson, an Opening Day starter last season. "This doesn't mean I will be the guy, but [Roberts] knows I will do everything I can to refine my craft, become the best player I can be and produce for the team. Obviously, you're more comfortable when you know he wants you out there, but it's not something I'm taking for granted."

The Dodgers still see Pederson as the 30/30 talent he was in Triple-A in 2014 and not what he became last year, when he struck out 170 times in 480 at-bats.

"[Triple-A] didn't show me the stuff I needed to work on when I hit .303 with 33 home runs [in 2014]," he said, "but last year the league showed me what I needed to work on. It's part of the learning curve."

Pederson gave Roberts high marks for the way he's handled his new job.

"The communication has been great," Pederson said. "He lets me know ahead of time when I'm getting a game off, so I can prepare to do extra work with the staff. He's changing the culture, from the morning meetings, to on the field, to after the game. He shoots you a text, he called when he got the job. He does it in a lot of different ways. He just wants everyone to be on the same page.

"When he told me I was still the center fielder, he told me to just focus on the game, get back to enjoying it and having fun."

Pederson tied with Chicago's Kris Bryant for the most home runs by a rookie last season with 26, which ranked as the second-most by a rookie in Dodger franchise history, behind only Mike Piazza's 35 in 1993. He hit 20 of his 26 home runs before the All-Star break, the second-most for an NL rookie before the break.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.