Earlier this week, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts seemed encouraged by the progress Cody Bellinger was making in his return from a calf injury he suffered late in a blowout win over the Oakland Athletics on April 5.
That optimism took a turn in recent days when, Roberts said, Bellinger’s progression “hit a plateau.” On Friday, Roberts announced that a recent test showed a hairline fracture in Bellinger’s left fibula.
Roberts claimed he didn’t know Bellinger’s timetable for a return. Earlier in the day, however, Roberts told the league’s television network that he expected Bellinger to miss “another week or two.” The Dodgers hadn’t yet announced the fracture when Roberts shared that estimate.
Bellinger sustained the injury when Athletics reliever Reymin Guduan stepped on his calf in a race to first base. Bellinger beat Guduan to the bag, but limped off the field. The Dodgers were leading 10-3 with two outs in the ninth inning.
“I think that he’s a ballplayer and I think that it’s hard to tell a player to kind of notch it down because you talk about playing the game one way,” Roberts said after the game when asked if Bellinger should’ve played it safer in a blowout win. “And that’s how the Dodgers play baseball.”
The next day, Roberts said initial tests didn’t reveal any structural damage. Bellinger was initially diagnosed with two contusions and Roberts described his playing status as “day-to-day.” The Dodgers waited four days to place him on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to April 6.
Bellinger traveled with the team for their five-game road trip to San Diego and Seattle. He is cleared to take swings, throw, and lift weights. But Roberts’ timetable suggests he won’t be activated at least until the Dodgers return home next weekend when the Padres head to Dodger Stadium.
Chris Taylor has started six of the Dodgers’ nine games in center field since Bellinger’s injury, including Friday’s series opener against the Padres.
Mookie Betts moved over from right field to center field the day after Bellinger’s injury and started there again Wednesday, but the Dodgers are being careful with the former MVP after as he returns from a back injury. He was back in right field Friday after not playing Thursday against the Colorado Rockies.
AJ Pollock started in center field for Betts on Thursday but exited the game with a left groin injury. He wasn’t in the lineup Friday, but Roberts said he was available to pinch-hit.
DJ Peters and Steven Souza Jr. are other non-roster possibilities to log innings in the outfield during Bellinger’s absence.
Peters, 25, is on the team’s taxi squad for the road trip and has yet to make his major-league debut. Souza reported to the team’s alternate training site Thursday. The 31-year-old outfielder spent most of spring training with the Houston Astros before he was released.
He went 4 for 27 (.148) with a home run in 11 games with the Chicago Cubs last season in his first big-league action since sustaining a major left knee injury when he awkwardly stepped on home plate in a spring training game for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019. Souza suffered an ACL tear, LCL tear, partial PCL tear, and posterior lateral capsule tear in the knee. He posted his best big-league season in 2017 when he slugged 30 home runs for the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Dodgers were also without Gavin Lux because of a sore right wrist Friday. The second baseman was a late scratch Thursday. He was available Friday only as a pinch-runner and for defense.
In short, injuries have piled up for Dodgers position players, putting a dent into their unparalleled depth. And yet they entered Friday with the best record in the major leagues.
“I still think we have that versatility,” Roberts said. “We can still move guys around.”