For the first time in over seven weeks, Cody Bellinger is back with the Dodgers. He was activated off the injured list on Saturday after missing 46 games with a fractured left fibula.
Manager Dave Roberts said on Friday that Bellinger would start both Saturday and Sunday in center field against the Giants. Zach McKinstry, who missed six weeks with a right oblique strain, was also activated.
Bellinger last played in the majors on April 5 against the A’s, when he was spiked on the back of his left leg by Oakland pitcher Reymin Guduan while running to first base in the ninth inning of a blowout. What was first diagnosed as left calf contusions took longer than expected to heal, and further tests showed a hairline fracture of his left fibula.
After that came a lot of waiting for Bellinger, who couldn’t really do much, baseball-wise, until the bone in his leg fully healed.
“It sucks man,” Bellinger said. “I miss it a lot. I can’t wait to get back playing again.”
Bellinger said that in April, five weeks ago.
The last week saw Bellinger on a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he played five games — four in center field, and once at first base. Bellinger hit two home runs for OKC, and was 4-for-20 in road games against Albuquerque and El Paso.
Bellinger rejoins a team for which he hit the first ball over the fence this season, but is also — along with Yoshi Tsutsugo — one of only two position players out of 19 yet to hit a home run for the Dodgers.
What the team missed with Bellinger sidelined isn’t as simple as looking at their center field production without him, thanks to positional versatility on the roster. Dodgers center fielders since Bellinger’s injury hit .266/.369/.446, a 129 wRC+ that ranks fifth in the majors during that time. Mookie Betts and Chris Taylor carried the bulk of that production, shifting to center from other positions. But injuries to, in order, Bellinger, Zach McKinstry, AJ Pollock, and Corey Seager have necessitated a lot of playing time from players who might not have otherwise received it.
“We fully get that injuries are a part of the game,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said two weeks ago. “It’s more been the concentration of them that we were definitely not as prepared for as I would have liked.”
It’s why the Dodgers adding replacement-level players Albert Pujols and Tsutsugo actually made sense. Those two, plus Sheldon Neuse, Luke Raley, and DJ Peters have combined to hit .179/.261/.307 in 199 plate appearances, with a 34.7-percent strikeout rate.
With Bellinger and McKinstry back, the Dodgers optioned Sheldon Neuse and DJ Peters to Triple-A.