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Dodgers utilizing ‘next man up’ with stars out

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Mookie Betts to sit again Sunday. Taylor & McKinstry shine in versatile roles

MLB: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Mookie Betts ran and played catch before Saturday’s game, but the Dodgers plan to sit the outfielder again on Sunday, which coupled with Monday’s off day would mean at least six days in between starts, missing at least four games with lower back stiffness.

“The hope for me is that he’ll be back in there Tuesday,” manager Dave Roberts said. “But we’re not going to put him in there unless he’s ready to go.”

The plan is for Zach McKinstry, who started the last four games in right field, to shift to left field on Sunday against Max Scherzer, and for Edwin Ríos to make his first major league start in right field. Ríos played a total of four games and 23⅓ innings in right field in the minors, in 2017 with Double-A Tulsa and in 2019 with Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Saturday marked the third straight game without Betts and the fourth without Cody Bellinger, who is on the injured list. But the Dodgers have won three of the last four, and they led in the ninth inning of the game they lost during that stretch. That included a nine-run outburst against the Nationals.

“It just goes to show this organization has a ton of talent kind of waiting in the wings,” said Chris Taylor, whose three-run home run in the second inning helped break Saturday’s game open. “And I’m sure we’re gonna see some more new faces this season.”

“It’s a lot of talent. It’s the way we prepare each day, and I guess it’s a next man up mindset,” Roberts said. “Guys pick each other up. Credit goes to the coaches and those players.”

The versatility of McKinstry, who has played three positions so far this season, and Taylor, who has played four, certainly helps Roberts maneuver depending on which players might be unavailable. McKinstry said Taylor has been giving him advice since last season.

“He’s a guy you watch, and who leads by example,” said McKinstry, who had a two-run single of his own Saturday. “He’s not much of a talker until you get to know him a little bit, but he’s a good guy.”

“He’s going to have an outstanding year for us,” Taylor said of McKinstry. “I don’t think this is a hot streak or anything for him. He’s just playing up to all of our expectations.”

Up next

The Dodgers go for the sweep on Sunday afternoon, with a scintillating matchup of future Hall of Famers Clayton Kershaw and Scherzer (1:10 p.m.; SportsNet LA, MLB Network).