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Roberts on Lux: 'We don’t feel he’s ready'

@kengurnick
August 5, 2020

Conspiracy theorists online seem convinced the Dodgers’ promotion of infielder Zach McKinstry on Wednesday proves service-time manipulation of top prospect Gavin Lux, who is stationed at the club’s alternate training site. The accusation didn’t sit well with manager Dave Roberts, who saw Lux arrive late to Summer Camp, had the

Conspiracy theorists online seem convinced the Dodgers’ promotion of infielder Zach McKinstry on Wednesday proves service-time manipulation of top prospect Gavin Lux, who is stationed at the club’s alternate training site.

The accusation didn’t sit well with manager Dave Roberts, who saw Lux arrive late to Summer Camp, had the bat frozen on his shoulder taking strikes down the middle in intrasquad games and maybe even contract a case of the yips throwing to first base.

“First of all, there is no conspiracy theory of holding Gavin Lux down for any other reason besides that we don’t feel he’s ready right now,” said Roberts. “We let Gavin know that. So that should be put to bed.

“It was a short ramp-up for Gavin and he wasn’t right mechanically. And he knows that, we know that. He’s still getting there at [alternative training site] USC, getting at-bats daily, it’s coming. I see video every day; it’s getting better.”

As Roberts explained, McKinstry was traveling with the Dodgers on the taxi squad and he implied it could be a callup of as short as one day, because rosters must be reduced from 30 to 28 on Thursday. Calling up Lux for a day “doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Roberts said Lux was told he won’t be called up until he’s ready to stay and play every day.

“That’s the thought behind it,” he said. “We’re happy Gavin’s handling everything like a professional. All reports are good. And we’re excited for Zach to get that Day One of service.”

In a September callup, Lux had a .240/.305/.400 slashline with 24 strikeouts in 75 at-bats. In the playoff series against Washington, he was 2-for-9 with a homer but also six strikeouts. His Spring Training slashline was .242/.286/.303 with nine strikeouts in 33 at-bats. In the three Summer Camp exhibitions, he was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

Whether other clubs engage in service-time manipulation, the Dodgers believe they have shown in recent years by their handling of Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger -- and this year, Dustin May and Brusdar Graterol -- that rookies play early and often if they contribute. Management also has an impressive track record of knowing when players are ready, based on so many impressive performances by new arrivals.

• With position players Mookie Betts (finger) and Edwin Ríos (toe) nursing minor injuries, the Dodgers recalled McKinstry and optioned left-handed pitcher Victor González. It is the first big league callup for McKinstry, a 33rd-round pick from Central Michigan and the 24th-rated prospect in the organization by MLB Pipeline.

Betts missed his third consecutive start since injuring the middle left finger with an awkward swing on Sunday. Despite a scheduled day off Thursday, Roberts said he wasn’t certain if Betts will be able to start on Friday.

Ríos told Roberts he was available to play Wednesday after being hit on the right big toe with a pitch Tuesday night and having blood drained from under the nail.

The Dodgers had been carrying 16 pitchers, but were down to their last position player Tuesday night despite carrying a 30-man roster. On Thursday, rosters reduce to 28.

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