Roberts: Belli playing 'Gold Glove right field'

May 27th, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- Word of warning: Don’t get caught watching just Cody Bellinger’s bat.

The Dodgers outfielder has set all kinds of Major League highs on offense as part of his .391/.474/.765 effort through the team’s first 52 games. But he’s also sitting near the top of all the top defensive metrics, and Saturday night provided yet another example of why.

In the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ 7-2 win over the Pirates, Bellinger ranged back to the right-field warning track on a drive off the bat of Jake Elmore. Using all of his 6-foot-4 frame and its reach, Bellinger leaped up while making contact with the scoreboard on the Clemente Wall to strand a runner at third base and end the frame.

“I knew he hit it well,” Bellinger said after the game. “I haven’t played right field here, so I tried to get to the wall as quick as I could, and I just timed up my jump and it went in the glove.”

His arm, or rather the threat of it, also helped Hyun-Jin Ryu to strand runners on second and third with no outs in the fourth inning. The lefty yielded three balls to the outfield, including one to Bellinger for the second out, but the Pirates didn’t allow Kevin Newman to attempt taking home.

These are just a couple of reasons why Dave Roberts said of Bellinger: “He’s played Gold Glove right field.”

The stats back him up. Among all Major Leaguers at any position, Bellinger’s 12 Defensive Runs Saved per FanGraphs entering Sunday trail only Brewers outfielder and notorious home run robber Lorenzo Cain (13); that mark is already higher than the one set by the Dodgers outfield as a whole last season (11).

DRS factors in a mix of Bellinger’s strong arm and ability to catch. Looking at them individually, his five outfield assists are tied for third best in baseball, and he’s already reached +3 Outs Above Average (tied for 10th best), per Statcast, which likely indicates that he’ll best his solid mark of +6 last season.

“There are moments where I kind of [marvel],” Roberts said. “The play made last night saved Ryu a run, and that was a breaking point for Hyun-Jin’s outing. … It’s fun to watch. It’s really fun to see his growth.”

Injury notes

• Left-handed reliever Tony Cingrani (left shoulder impingement) pitched an outing in his rehab assignment Friday with Triple-A Oklahoma City, but Roberts said Cingrani “didn’t come out of it feeling great.

“There was a little bit of pain in the shoulder,” Roberts said, “so we’re going to kind of reassess, and he’s going to get in and see our doctors and we’ll see in the next couple of days.”

Cingrani has not pitched in a Major League game in 2019. He posted a 4.76 ERA across 30 appearances last season after recording a 2.79 ERA in 22 appearances with the Dodgers in 2017.

• Roberts held Alex Verdugo out of the starting lineup Sunday, as the outfielder is dealing with a bit of “back tightness,” per the manager.

“I tried to get him out of there last night and give him today,” Roberts said. “... He’s going to take a day to take care of his back and treat it up, and I expect him to be in the lineup tomorrow against [Mets starter Jacob] deGrom.”

Verdugo wound up pinch-hitting in the sixth inning of the Dodgers' 11-7 win, delivering a sacrifice fly.