Cody Bellinger was placed on the 10-day injured list with left hamstring tightness Tuesday, continuing a frustrating season full of stops and starts for the centerfielder and former MVP.
Bellinger hit and did some running on Tuesday, but was considered day to day until literally minutes before the first pitch against the Phillies.
“We’re trying to wait as long as we can to make a decision on the IL,” manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday. “I don’t think there’s much of a cost right now, where we’re at today.”
Before Bellinger was placed on the IL, Roberts said would unavailable in any role in Tuesday’s game, and said it was unlikely he’d play Wednesday, with a team off day coming Thursday.
Bellinger left Friday night’s game in the fifth inning, after his RBI single gave the Dodgers an 11-0 lead. The injury occurred earlier in the at-bat, when Bellinger tried to get out of the way of a wild pitch by Texas right-hander Brett de Geus.
“Cody felt it on a take, the ball in and he felt his hamstring kind of tug. He thought it was a cramp,” Roberts said Friday. “He didn’t feel it trying to stretch a single into a double [in the fourth inning]. The way he was running down the line [in the fifth] didn’t feel great.”
On Monday, Roberts said, “We were initially hopeful it was going to be a day or two, but as the days progressed there hasn’t been a whole lot of improvement.”
What the Dodgers were weighing with Bellinger was the hope of his return in under a week, against the cost of any additional games missed. Teams can backdate an injured list stint up to three days, so should the Dodgers decide to place Bellinger on the IL before Tuesday’s game, it would be the same as if they made the move on Saturday, one day after his injury.
Bellinger is eligible to be activated on June 22, next Tuesday.
By waiting, any future placement of Bellinger on the IL would have meant he’d have to miss the next seven days’ worth of games.
Bellinger already missed 46 games this season with a fractured left fibula. Since his return from the injured list, Bellinger started 11 of 12 games in center field. After an 0-for-11 skid with eight strikeouts when he was first activated, Bellinger is 10-for-32 with a home run and four walks, hitting .313/.389/.406.
In November, Bellinger had surgery to repair a shoulder he dislocated during a celebration of his pennant-winning home run in Game 7 of the NLCS. That essentially sidelined him until halfway through spring training. He really only had about two weeks of Cactus League games, then was injured in the fifth game of the regular season.
Bellinger said in May that in spending so much time rehabbing his injuries, a lot of it at Camelback Ranch in Arizona, “Honestly, I feel like I haven’t been part of the team this year.”
He’s started only 15 of the Dodgers’ 67 games this season (counting Tuesday night’s non-start), including just one stretch of more than three games in a row. Bellinger has been good in center field defensively, but is hitting just .226/.324/.323 overall.
“There’s gotta be some frustration in there,” Roberts said. “I do think that, part of the inconsistencies of spring training, to then coming back, having a five or six-day rehab assignment, to not get on track offensively, has been part of that.”
Perhaps the relatively low cost of waiting on Bellinger was related to the options are available in Triple-A. On the 40-man roster, Sheldon Neuse, DJ Peters, and Zach Reks are starting Tuesday night for Oklahoma City. The only other position player on the roster is catcher Keibert Ruiz, who has four home runs in his last five games.
But instead of recalling a position player, the Dodgers instead recalled Mitch White, giving them an extra reliever after heavy bullpen usage the last two days.
When I asked Roberts if the team planned to call up any pitching reinforcements earlier, he said, “Not tonight. I don’t expect it tomorrow.”
The team now has 14 pitchers on the active roster, including nine relievers.
Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, and Victor Gonzalez all pitched on each of the last two days. That trio pitched on back-to-back days a total of 19 times between them before the last two games. None have pitched on three straight days. In 18 of those instances, they got at least two days of rest after the back-to-back games.
Dennis Santana is the only Dodgers pitcher to pitch on three straight days this season, doing so on April 26-28.
Jimmy Nelson and David Price both also pitched on Tuesday, and both have pitched on back-to-back days once each this season. Price pitched on April 15-16, the latter an extra-inning appearance in San Diego. Nelson did so on April 30-May 1, with his second appearance coming in a scramble situation after Dustin May suffered his UCL tear in the second inning in Milwaukee.
“We’re going to stay away from Kenley [tonight] certainly, and David,” Roberts said. “But outside of that, we’ll kind of read and react on guys, how they feel after playing catch.”