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Pollock's return will bump Verdugo from CF

@kengurnick
June 7, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- Dave Roberts said whenever A.J. Pollock returns from the injured list, he’ll be the Dodgers’ primary center fielder, even though Alex Verdugo has handled the job for most of the last five weeks. Verdugo did not start Friday night’s series opener against the Giants, Roberts saying the

SAN FRANCISCO -- Dave Roberts said whenever A.J. Pollock returns from the injured list, he’ll be the Dodgers’ primary center fielder, even though Alex Verdugo has handled the job for most of the last five weeks.

Verdugo did not start Friday night’s series opener against the Giants, Roberts saying the rookie is still experiencing mild back stiffness and the manager wanted to give him back-to-back days off his feet (Thursday was a scheduled day off).

“It’s something that’s nagging a little bit,” Roberts said. “It’s more maintenance. Tampa [artificial turf on May 21-22] might have got him.”

Pollock has been out since April 30 with an elbow infection that required surgery. Roberts said Pollock will resume baseball activities soon, but still will require a Spring Training-like ramp-up before returning. The Dodgers are 16-10 when Pollock starts in center, 19-6 when Verdugo starts there.

“When A.J. comes back, he’s going to play,” said Roberts. “Right now, as we’re sitting here, I expect A.J. to play center field, that’s where he’s played. There’s one thing about keeping guys comfortable and challenging them. Right now, we’re definitely fine with A.J. in center field.”

Verdugo was torrid at the plate when he inherited Pollock’s playing time, and he’s played superior defense, but the bat has cooled considerably. His average has fallen from .343 on May 11 to .300 entering play on Friday night. His last home run was April 19, and he’s had one RBI in his last 29 plate appearances.

“This little bit of a struggle, as far as getting hits to what he’s accustomed to, is a little bit tougher to handle, so I’m keeping an eye on how he’s handling it,” said Roberts. “Just encouraging him to do things the right way on the field and we’ll bet on the results.”

Enrique Hernandez started in center field on Friday night in the series opener against the Giants.

Worth noting

Roberts said he will probably give third baseman Justin Turner Saturday off and start him on Sunday. Turner is plagued by hamstring tightness and the Dodgers are trying to keep him in the lineup without being forced to put him on the injured list.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.