Come to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on any given night and you better scan the field to figure out where Patrick Leonard is playing. Chances are he won’t be in the same spot he was the previous night. Same could be said about Taylor Featherston or Kean Wong or Jake Hager or Jake Bauers.
Bulls’ manager Jared Sandberg has several players at his disposal with the versatility of a swiss army knife, and on any given night, Sandberg isn’t afraid to shake it up.
Just this week alone Leonard played first base and right field. The first half of the season he played mostly at third base. Several players are like Leonard and able to switch around at any given time. According to Sandberg, it adds to the value of the player.
“Yes, especially since some of these guys break into the big leagues not knowing where they are going to play,” Sandberg said. “When you have some versatility as a player it gives you a little more value at the big league level in that sense.”
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Bauers took over first base from Leonard Wednesday night, sending Leonard to right field. Featherston, fairly new to the team but one of the most versatile, played third base and right field this week. Sandberg said Featherson and Leonard are two of the most flexible when it comes to position moves. The coach has moved Bauers and Wong around more lately, with Wong shifting between the middle infield positions and third base, where he started Thursday night during the Bulls 1-0 win over Scranton/Wilkes.
While it’s helpful, it can be a headache at times. To make life easy, or somewhat comfortable for players who thrive on routines, Sandberg tries to make sure a guy stays at a position for two or three nights in a row. The key word there is ‘tries.’ It doesn’t always happen because of the makeup of the roster, but the goal is to always let a player get enough work at a certain spot.
“Wong is still getting used to third base,” Sandberg said. “They are making some adjustments, but the more they move around the easier it’s going to be later on. That’s the whole goal, from a developmental standpoint.”
If he had to pick, Leonard would prefer to stay at third, but he is comfortable at first. What helps all the moving, for example, is if he plays first, then he’ll play right field when a move is made, that way he can at least stay on the same side of the field.
“It’s nice having that,” Leonard said.
As the Bulls prepare for the playoffs it brings comfort to Leonard that so many guys bring so much to the table. If somebody goes down, someone can quickly fill that spot.
“Mike McKenry catches and plays in the outfield,” Leonard said, pointing out another versatile player. “He could probably play second if we needed him. It’s nice having guys, so it’s like if one guy goes out it’s not like we don’t have any backups. It’s nice having that.”