On Sunday, DeLuca was back at Dodger Stadium. This time, he was wearing a Dodgers uniform, as the outfielder was officially called up for the first time in his career after the team placed outfielder Trayce Thompson on the 10-day injured list with a left oblique strain.
“It happens so quick,” DeLuca said. “Everyone here says it happens super quick, but you don’t really believe it until it’s actually there. So yeah, just trying to stay consistent every day. A lot of things are out of my control, so just doing my best on the field. And sometimes things like this happen. So it’s a pretty cool experience.”
DeLuca was a quick riser through the Dodgers’ system. After hitting 25 homers between High-A Great Lakes and Double-A Tulsa last season, DeLuca was a surprise addition to Los Angeles’ 40-man roster this past winter, protecting him from being selected by other teams in the Rule 5 Draft.
Following a solid Spring Training, DeLuca continued to show off his impressive power, hitting 14 homers in 49 games between Double-A and Triple-A Oklahoma City. DeLuca was hitting .315 with four homers in 17 games since being promoted to Triple-A.
In a perfect world, the Dodgers would’ve preferred DeLuca to continue his development in the Minors while getting consistent at-bats. But with Thompson going down with injury and the team light on right-handed-hitting outfielders, the Thousand Oaks, Calif., product got his call to The Show.
What should the Dodgers expect out of DeLuca?
Offensively, DeLuca could provide some power in the outfield, a spot the club has struggled with this season given Thompson’s lack of production. The Dodgers, of course, will look to give DeLuca favorable matchups as he adjusts to big league pitching.
On the bases, DeLuca does add some speed to the team, another area of weakness. Manager Dave Roberts said he could use DeLuca in some late-game situations, but the Dodgers don’t usually pinch-run for their regulars.
“He's a baseball player,” Roberts said. “He's that old-school type, gritty, grinder type. Really good defender at all three [outfield spots], he can really run.”
How much will he play? What does his role look like?
Thompson’s role was almost non-existent over the last few weeks as he dealt with one of the worst slumps of his career, including going hitless for more than a month. But Thompson’s role to open the season was to start in left field or center field against left-handed pitching, which is exactly what DeLuca’s role will be for as long as he’s up in the Majors.
Roberts also hinted at the fact that DeLuca will start on Wednesday against the Reds, which will in all likelihood be his first start at the big league level. However, when opposing teams turn to a left-handed reliever to face Jason Heyward, David Peralta or James Outman, DeLuca will be one of the first bats off the bench for Los Angeles.
How long is Thompson out and is DeLuca a direct replacement?
Thompson suffered a left oblique strain and will be out for at least one month, according to Roberts. Because of the delicate nature of an oblique strain, it seems unlikely that Thompson returns before the All-Star break.
In his absence, DeLuca will get the first chance to fill the vacant spot, but the Dodgers could explore some external options over the next few weeks.