What Muncy to IL (elbow) means for Dodgers

May 28th, 2022

PHOENIX -- It hasn’t been the season that Dodgers All-Star infielder Max Muncy ever envisioned.

Muncy, who suffered a torn UCL on his left elbow on the last day of the regular season in 2021, is off to his worst start since joining the Dodgers, hitting .150 with three homers in his first 133 at-bats of the season.

Due to those struggles, and a recent aggravation to the injury in the series against the Nationals, the Dodgers officially decided to place Muncy on the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation. It’s just the third time in Muncy’s career that he has been placed on the IL.

“This game is extremely tough,” Muncy said. “On top of that, when you’re playing on the best team in baseball in the market we play in, things can get amplified a bit. So just taking a breather can definitely help out. But like I’ve been saying, we’re just going to focus on getting healthy.”

How much was the elbow affecting Muncy at the plate?
To no surprise, Muncy said he’ll “never” use the injury as an excuse for his poor start at the plate. But naturally, it’s easy to wonder whether the injury has affected his mechanics and his overall power.

Last season, Muncy’s average exit velocity was 91.2 mph. In ‘22, it’s down significantly to 87.3 mph, the second-lowest clip of his career. He’s also struggling to catch up to fastballs, hitting .114 against that pitch. Last season, he hit .307 with 25 homers on fastballs.

“Maybe like subconsciously, it’s been there,” Muncy said. “Maybe not quite getting through the ball like I’m used to. But it’s not something I’m thinking about. It just kind of happens. Like I said, I’m not going to use my elbow as an excuse. I haven’t been good. But maybe it’s there, maybe it’s not.”

The Dodgers are hoping giving Muncy time to reset will ultimately help him get back to his usual form for the stretch run. Muncy did add that he doesn’t think getting MRIs and other tests on the left elbow will be necessary. It’ll just be a matter of working through things this season.

How long will Muncy be sidelined for?
While Muncy hopes to return as quickly as possible, there’s still no definitive timetable for his return. Manager Dave Roberts said it’ll all depend on conversations with Muncy and how he’s feeling. He also added that it “could be two weeks. It could be three weeks.”

The length of Muncy’s absence will determine whether he’ll need to go on a rehab assignment to continue working on his health and mechanics.

“It’s one of those things where it’s ingrained in me that I need to be out there playing no matter what,” Muncy said. “I’ve been grinding through some things. But unfortunately, I’ve been trying to put my body on the line, and I just need to take a step back for a couple days and just reset and give my body a chance to heal up.”

Who replaces him in the lineup?
With Muncy out, Edwin Ríos will get an extended run at the plate. So far, the Puerto Rican infielder has taken full advantage of his opportunity, smashing six homers this season, five of them coming in May.

Though Ríos homered off left-hander Madison Bumgarner on Friday, most of his at-bats will continue to be against right-handers. Justin Turner will also play more third base with Muncy sidelined.

Chris Taylor could get more time in the infield. Gavin Lux and Hanser Alberto will continue to get the playing time at second base, though using Mookie Betts in the infield could also be an option for the Dodgers.

Adding outfielder Kevin Pillar to the active roster gives the Dodgers a fourth true outfielder for the first time this season. That should help give Betts, Cody Bellinger and Taylor some time off, when needed.