Bellinger had a big smile on his face a good four hours before first pitch.
“If feels good. Feels really good,” a beaming Bellinger said. “I haven’t done this in a while, so it’s good to be back, man. Real good.”
For Bellinger, it was especially sweet even though he was 0-for-4 with a walk at the plate and a run scored in a lackluster Dodgers loss to the Giants. But his return is less about this weekend, and more about the two-thirds of the regular season remaining.
After offseason shoulder surgery, Bellinger was limited in spring training, then only played four games before getting spiked on the back of his left leg, suffering a fractured fibula that knocked him out of action for over seven weeks, the bulk of it spent at Camelback Ranch in Arizona.
“Honestly, I feel like I haven’t been part of the team this year. In spring training, I was on my own schedule, getting ready, then obviously [the fractured fibula] happened,” Bellinger said Saturday. “It’s good to be back with the boys. It’s going to be nice not watching on TV. It’ll ne nice to be in the games.”
Manager Dave Roberts said Bellinger would start the remaining five games of the homestand, including once at first base “to get his feet back under him, so he can continue to log at-bats, get comfortable, not put too much toll on the body.”
Bellinger will start in center field on Sunday.
He was in Arizona when the Dodgers signed Albert Pujols, someone Bellinger knew as a legendary player from games against Angels. But now, they have lockers next to each other in the clubhouse.
“I know I’m going to take full advantage of being next to a future Hall of Famer, and try to learn from his as much as I can,” Bellinger said.
Pujols nearly won Friday’s game with a walk-off home run in the ninth, only to be denied by a fantastic leaping catch by Mike Tauchman. On Saturday, Pujols took a few more shots at left field, with better success.
First came a 112.6-mph line drive double off Scott Kazmir in the sixth, back when the Dodgers had designs on a comeback. In the eighth inning, Pujols got more loft on the ball, driving it 103.6 mph into the bullpen for a two-run shot that pulled the Dodgers to within — well, five runs.
The double was Pujols’ 671st, the homer his 669th. Both rank fifth in major league history. Together on Saturday, both gave Pujols an eye-popping 1,356 career extra-base hits, moving him into a tie for fourth, with none other than Babe Ruth.
“When you look at the body of work, he’s in company of people that are in books, and black-and-white film,” Roberts said. “He just keeps adding, and keeps getting higher and higher on all these different lists. I just can’t say enough about the player, and the person.”