LOS ANGELES — Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has never been on the disabled list in his major league career. And from the sounds of things, any sort of decision for that streak to end would almost have to be decided by Gonzalez himself.
Gonzalez is not in the starting lineup Tuesday night, hitting just .258/.333/.315 with no home runs, and a ground ball rate (47.3%) that is the highest of his career. This is coming off a season with a similar ground ball rate (46.2%) and his lowest home run total (18) in 11 years, and his lowest doubles total (31) in eight years.
“With Adrian, trying to manage his health — and he’s talked about not being 100% — with today, and the off day Thursday, hopefully that will get him back a little bit,” manager Dave Roberts said.
What Gonzalez is dealing with is elbow tendinitis that sidelined him for a few weeks before the World Baseball Classic, and nagged during spring training. He has also had chronic issues with his neck off and on for several years, but nothing was enough to put him on the disabled list.
Gonzalez has been an ironman in his career, averaging 159 games per season from 2006-16, never playing in fewer than 156 games in any of those 11 years. With his performance in those years, Gonzalez has earned a substantial amount of rope. Roberts said he didn’t think Gonzalez was hiding or downplaying his health.
“With a player like Adrian, for a guy who’s never been on the disabled list for his entire career, it says a lot about the character and the will to want to post,” Roberts said. “It’s possible [he’s hiding something], but I can only go by his word and the training staff in the sense that he says he feels good enough to play.
“Obviously there is a performance thing, and the bigger issue of if there is further damage. But in the conversations I’ve had with him, he feels like he can still go out there. I have to continue to count on that, but we’ll see. There’s going to be ongoing conversations.”
Since joining the Dodgers in August 2012, Gonzalez has played in 97.2% of the club’s games, a 157-game pace over a full season. Even in the first five times Gonzalez didn't start this season — all against left-handed pitchers — he ended up playing in the game anyway as a reserve.
Sitting Wednesday too — even with a right-hander (Jeff Samardzija) starting for the Giants — could potentially give Gonzalez three days of rest, including Thursday’s scheduled off day, while only missing two games.
“I’m going to talk to him to see how he feels today,” Roberts said. “If he feels that three days in a row might benefit, that’s a conversation.”
Cody Bellinger starts at first base on Tuesday night for the Dodgers, and with the return of Franklin Gutierrez and the pending return of Joc Pederson on Friday, the only real avenue for Bellinger to get regular playing time in the major would be if Gonzalez were to go on the disabled list.
If Gonzalez felt that DL stint would benefit, of course.