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Bellinger gets protection with lineup tweak

@kengurnick
May 9, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- It’s taken more than a month, but opponents are finally handling Cody Bellinger like the superstar he’s turned into. That means he’s being pitched around, which became obvious Wednesday night when the Braves intentionally walked Bellinger with runners in scoring position in the fifth and seventh innings.

LOS ANGELES -- It’s taken more than a month, but opponents are finally handling Cody Bellinger like the superstar he’s turned into.

That means he’s being pitched around, which became obvious Wednesday night when the Braves intentionally walked Bellinger with runners in scoring position in the fifth and seventh innings. He had been intentionally walked only twice prior to that this season.

Struggling shortstop Corey Seager, who was batting behind Bellinger in that game, was dropped to sixth on Thursday night, with David Freese and Max Muncy batting behind Bellinger for protection and ahead of Seager.

“Teams are pitching [Bellinger] a little more carefully,” said manager Dave Roberts. “Obviously last night, a couple times with runners on base, to pitch around him and get to Seager. I think there’s a little bit getting out of the strike zone with Cody. Hasn’t been able to stay on the ball as well as prior. But to see somebody locked in for that amount of time is difficult. For him to take walks is still important.”

Bellinger has been taking his walks this year. He’s on pace to set a career high for walks and career low for strikeouts. In addition to leading the Dodgers (if not all of baseball) in just about every impactful offensive stat, he also leads a very patient lineup in walks.

Bellinger also is in the longest home run drought of the young season (31 at-bats), which includes three starts since he suffered a mild dislocation of his right shoulder diving for a grounder Friday night.

Seager, rusty after elbow and hip operations, “is really grinding right now on his mechanics,” Roberts said. A .296 lifetime hitter, he’s batting .235.

“We have a lot of guys really swinging the bats right now. For [Seager] to sit back and let the game come to him, get guys on base and put him in a situation where he potentially could drive in a run without getting a hit, feel better about his at-bats. That’s a little bit of my thought behind it. Once he does get going, I expect him to get back to the top of the order.”

Roberts said if clubs keep pitching to Seager, they are “going to pay. He’s too good of a hitter. I don’t worry about his psyche. But I hope he took it personally.”

• Left-handed relievers Tony Cingrani and Caleb Ferguson continue their rehabs. Cingrani pitched a scoreless inning on Thursday for Triple-A Oklahoma City. Roberts said the club intends to have Cingrani pitch on back-to-back days. Ferguson is expected to go out on a rehab assignment in the next few days, probably with Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga.

• The Dodgers donated 25,000 tickets in support of Los Angeles Unified School District’s Attendance Incentive Program; the tickets will serve as a reward for deserving students.

To kick off the partnership, Dodgers Ross Stripling and Alex Verdugo joined students at Compton Avenue Elementary School on Thursday to celebrate the announcement and take part in playground fun and games, led by Playworks. Dodgers vice president of external affairs and community relations Naomi Rodriguez and LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner made opening remarks at the assembly.

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