If there was an opportunity for the Dodgers to unilaterally impose the designated hitter rule upon the National League, they just might do it. After all, their first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is still bothered by a muscular strain in his neck, but it doesn't really hinder his performance at the plate.
Gonzalez went 2-for-4 on Saturday night in the Dodgers' 7-1 win over the Marlins, extending his hitting streak to nine games. But he also left the game after seven innings after feeling neck pain after a couple of fielding plays.
"We don't know what gets him. The play where he goes to his right and gets the lead guy, that stung him. Then a swing stung him," said manager Don Mattingly. "We thought it was a good time to get him out of there. The beat kind of goes on with Adrian. He's still swinging the bat good."
The score was 7-1 at the time and lifting Gonzalez was partly a precaution, and Gonzalez insists he will play again on Sunday. But the neck strain continues to be a nuisance, especially in the field.
Gonzalez injured the neck on May 1 against Colorado, then was scratched from the starting lineup three straight days in San Francisco, though he did deliver a pinch-hit single in the finale of the series. He left the game on Wednesday against Arizona after just four innings after aggravating the neck strain.
But his hitting streak includes every game Gonzalez has played since the injury.
"That's the one thing. It doesn't really bother me when I hit," Gonzalez said. "Just throwing, running for fly balls, running with my head up, that hurts, especially going back. But even moving forward with my head up it hurts. With fly balls it's hard for me to go hard or even go comfortably. I'd say the fly balls are the worst."
It has become a daily battle for Gonzalez of getting treatment and preparing for a game, only to have that relative calm disrupted during play.
"It's a strain. Once I get up and start running and throwing during the game, it just seems to get worse and worse and worse."