Mookie Betts is not only back in the Dodgers lineup on Saturday after leaving Friday’s game with discomfort in his right hip, but he’s batting third for the first time in nearly four years.
Friday was Betts’ first game in the outfield since July 17 at Coors Field, a game in which he had four extra-base hits, but also left in the seventh inning with a hip inflammation that would land him on the injured list. He was limited to one plate appearance in 13 games, then once activated last Sunday played his first three games at second base to limit his running.
He felt something running the bases in the first inning, when advancing from first to third on a double by Justin Turner. Betts scored on a ground ball, and stayed in the game five more innings. He even batted two more times, and drove in the Dodgers’ second and final run of the game, before leaving after the sixth inning.
Betts’ hip is going to be something he and the Dodgers will have to deal with the remainder of the season.
“It’s going to be a constant conversation with Mookie, the training staff, to put him in the best position to stay on the field, for as much as we can keep him on the field,” manager Dave Roberts said Saturday. “I don’t believe resting it will help anything. All of it is just managing it.”
Managing it is a little easier with 14 position players on the roster and a six-man bench, as the Dodgers had Friday and will have Saturday as well. That number figures to go down soon, at least to 13 position players and possibly 12, the latter the most common roster configuration all season. Tuesday starts a stretch of 22 games in 23 days.
Roberts said the plan for now is for Betts to be out of the lineup Sunday, which coupled with Monday’s scheduled off day will give him two days of rest before next week’s road trip that starts Tuesday in Philadelphia.
Betts since July 10 is hitting .559/.610/1.206, and despite playing in only nine of 21 games during that span ranks second on the team during that time in runs scored (17) and home runs (6), and is third in extra-base hits (10).
“[The hip] doesn’t really hurt me too much swinging. It’s more just running,” Betts said Wednesday. “I’ve been able to find a little something [at the plate], and I’ve been able to repeat it.”
Betts is hitting third for the first time since September 30, 2017 with the Red Sox. Since joining the Dodgers, Betts started 142 times batting leadoff counting the regular season and postseason, including his first 82 starts this season. Betts also batted second 11 times in 2020.
Trea Turner takes over the leadoff spot in his first Dodgers start and is playing second base, which figures to be his usual position for the remainder of the season. Roberts said on most days, this will be the top three of the lineup, with Turner, Max Muncy, and Betts in the first three spots in the order.
“Both guys (Turner and Betts) felt being in a certain part of the order with consistency was important to them,” Roberts said. “Trea’s played a lot at the top of the order. To be able to utilize his speed at the top, to create havoc on the bases, stress, to get him at the top, I feel really good about that.”
Roberts said Betts will play second base occasionally — Corey Seager, a week of the inured list himself, figures to play four out of every five days in the near future, with Turner sliding over to shortstop when he’s off — to ease the amount of running he has to do, which has aggravated the hip discomfort the last few weeks.