Mookie Betts was a late scratch for the Dodgers on Sunday, suffering an allergic reaction, the specifics of which manager Dave Roberts did not know, other than this hasn’t previously happened to Betts.
“He couldn’t keep his eyes open. It’s an allergy thing. We’re getting drops and trying to kind of manage it,” Roberts said. “He wants to be in there, but a player that the vision is impaired doesn’t make sense for anyone.”
It’s a continuation of what has been a frustrating season for Betts, who missed time in April with back soreness, and missed time last weekend for left shoulder soreness, something he’s been getting treatment on for six weeks.
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Betts is hitting .240/.355/.427, which in the reduced offensive environment of 2021 MLB is still good for a 121 wRC+. But that would be the worst for Betts since 2017, and the second-worst of his eight-year career.
“He’s very frustrated. A guy like Mookie, who is one of the leaders on the ballclub, feels like he’s letting the team down,” Roberts said. “But the truth of the matter is he wants to be out there and just can’t physically today.”
Betts told reporters in Houston that injuries weren’t an excuse for his performance this season, and that his back specifically healed long ago. Roberts said none of these maladies were severe enough for Betts to be placed on the injured list, nor is that something the team is considering, even as a load management tactic.
“I think this is more isolated. He’s in great physical shape,” Roberts said. “This is one of those incidents that’s just more kind of micro, and that will pass. As far as the day-to-day things, guys will always have that.
“It’s a long season. To try to nip it in the bud makes more sense than running the player out there.”
In addition to the nagging injuries, Betts has been getting occasional rest days, usually in the middle of a long stretch of games without a scheduled off day for the team. Saturday probably qualifies, though it also was because Betts has one hit in his last 18 at-bats, and popped out in the infield three times in an 0-for-6 game on Friday.
“I think that happens to everybody. When you’re not getting hits, you start to squeeze the bat a little tighter. You’re a little bit unsure of yourself. That happens to every hitter,” Roberts said. “The great thing about our ball club is we have a lot of good players to support each other. It’s a little bit longer stretch than what we all would like or anticipated. But that’s baseball.”
With Betts out, Albert Pujols gets a Sunday start at first base against Kevin Gausman, and Matt Beaty shifts from first base to right field.
Sunday is a scheduled non-start for Justin Turner, who started the previous 10 games. This is the sixth day in a nine day stretch between off days for the Dodgers, and the only player on the team to start every game so far is Max Muncy.
Jimmy Nelson threw his bullpen session on Saturday, and the plan remains the same for him: facing live hitters on Tuesday, then could potentially join the Dodgers on the road trip next weekend for possible activation. “We’ll see how he responds, then make a decision, call it Thursday or Friday,” Roberts said.
Scott Alexander and Garrett Cleavinger remain at Camelback Ranch in Arizona, continuing their rehab from shoulder inflammation and forearm inflammation, respectively. Cleavinger, who last pitched May 15, threw a bullpen session recently. Alexander, who last pitched May 1, has not thrown a bullpen session.
“At some point, they are going to get out on a rehab assignment, but they’re not there yet,” Roberts said. “Cleav is a little bit a head of Scotty, to my understanding.”