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Dodgers playing with a short bench, betting on Mookie Betts playing vs. Giants

Betts is out of the lineup for a 6th straight game Friday

MLB: JUL 19 Giants at Dodgers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dodgers’ outfielder Mookie Betts is out of the lineup for a sixth straight game on Friday with hip inflammation. Betts will also likely be unavailable on Saturday and possibly Sunday as well, but the team has no plans to put him on the injured list yet.

Manager Dave Roberts said tests on Betts’ right hip on Thursday showed nothing new.

“We feel good about standing pat and waiting it out,” manager Dave Roberts said Friday. “It hasn’t been ideal [playing with a short bench] With Mookie, we didn’t know where we were at a few days ago. Certainly we know where we’re at right now.”

Injured list moves can backdated three days, and since Betts pinch hit on Monday, placing him on the IL on Friday would have been the same as doing so Tuesday, in terms of his eligibility to return.

As Betts missed nearly all of the series against the Giants in Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers avoided placing him on the injured list as a bet that he’d be ready by the next Giants series, which starts Tuesday in San Francisco.

The cost in between is playing a man short for five, maybe six games. The three outfielders on the 40-man roster not already in the majors — Luke Raley, Zach Reks, and DJ Peters — have hit a combined .163/.280/.267 with 41 strikeouts in 100 plate appearances in the majors, so the gain of calling up an extra bat with Betts out isn’t all that substantial.

The Dodgers tried to address that depth with a trade for Billy McKinney on Wednesday. He started in right field on Thursday and will again on Friday, and figures to remain there until Betts returns.

“Obviously with Mookie being down, we’re going to try to get [McKinney] a little bit of a runway,” Roberts said.

The only other position player on the 40-man roster — switch-hitting catcher Keibert Ruiz — is also the best hitter of the group, but with Will Smith and Austin Barnes healthy and entrenched behind the plate, the Dodgers seem loathe to call up a third catcher.

Betts has battled hip irritation all year, one of a myriad of nagging injuries for the five-time All-Star. He was heating up heading into and coming out of the All-Star break, going 12-for-16 with three home runs, four doubles, and 12 runs scored in a four-game stretch.

That hot streak ended on Saturday, when Betts left the game after his fourth extra-base hit of the night with hip irritation, exacerbated by running in the spacious outfield in Coors Field.

After sitting Sunday, Betts was initially in the Dodgers’ lineup on Monday against the Giants, though was a late scratch. He did pinch hit in that series opener, striking out in the ninth inning, and manager Dave Roberts said an injured list was unlikely, that this was an irritation Betts dealt with all year and would likely have to endure the rest of the season.

But after three more games out of the lineup, and inflammation in Betts’ hip persisting, thinking changed.

“[The injured list] is certainly a possibility. I didn’t think it was a few days ago. But once we get to a certain point, to backdate it three days, it’s a possibility,” Roberts said Wednesday. “It’s not ideal, but the most important thing is getting Mookie back to 100 percent.”

Even with the various nagging injuries this season — which include back, forearm, shoulder, and even an allergic reaction — Betts is hitting .270..374/.502, a 139 wRC+ with a WAR ranging from 2.9 (FanGraphs) and 3.5 (Baseball Reference).