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J.D. Martinez misses third straight game with back soreness

Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Dodgers designated hitter J.D. Martinez will miss a third straight game on Thursday with back soreness, as a stint on the injured list becomes a more viable possibility.

“We hasn’t swung a bat in three days. Today, potentially he’s going to get a little more active. It’s certainly been a little bit longer than we expected. Hoping that the IL is not a possibility,” manager Dave Roberts told reporters in Pittsburgh before Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates at PNC Park, per SportsNet LA. “He’s a guy that swings a lot, and for him to not be able to do that is certainly telling.”

Roberts also said further testing is possible if Martinez doesn’t improve.

The Dodgers often wait to place a regular on the injured list until it becomes obvious, usually because the potential replacement coming from the minors would be underwhelming. Miguel Rojas earlier this month missed five games and six out of seven with a mild left groin strain, but they avoided the injured list then. Rojas is on the IL now because of a hamstring strain.

It’s hard replacing Martinez in the lineup, as he’s batted third, fourth, or fifth and started the first 23 games of the season before missing this series. Martinez is hitting .250/.306/.534 and leads the team in extra-base hits, with nine doubles, four home runs, and two triples.

The severity of Martinez’s injury will ultimately determine whether he lands on the IL, but having Michael Busch at the ready could help soothe the pain. The decision will come Friday, it seems, based on postgame comments Thursday.

Busch was called up Tuesday when Max Muncy was placed on the paternity list, and he’s started at third base in two of the three games against the Pirates, and at designated hitter in his major league debut. Busch in the minors has played mostly second base, plus some first base. He added left field in 2022, and began playing third base this year.

But Busch’s bat is his calling card, hitting .337/.461/.506 in Triple-A Oklahoma City. After an RBI single and walk in his major league debut on Tuesday, his 0-for-4 Wednesday marked his time not reaching base in 23 games this season between the majors and minors.

Should Martinez need to miss seven more days and six more games — the Dodgers could backdate an IL stint to Tuesday if they make the call on Friday — having Busch stick around once Muncy returns from the paternity list, and having the DH available, is about as ideal a situation possible should it come to that.