Betts doubles twice in first game off IL

July 4th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Watching Mookie Betts at the plate in the Dodgers’ 4-2 loss to the Padres on Sunday afternoon, you wouldn’t think he was a guy who’d just missed 15 games with a right rib fracture.

In a first glimpse of the Dodgers’ new-look top of the order -- Betts leading off, Trea Turner hitting second, Freddie Freeman in the three hole -- Betts went 2-for-3 with two doubles, two walks and two runs scored. This was in spite of the fact that his rib is still fractured..

“He wants to be out there, and we just feel that there's nothing that can make it go south,” said Roberts.

Betts, who sustained the injury on June 15 after an outfield collision with Cody Bellinger, was allowed to make his own timetable to return. He came out of his routine much better than expected on Saturday, enough so that he felt ready to go on Sunday in the series finale against the Padres despite still experiencing some discomfort.

And he looked close to 100 percent on Sunday. The main exception was in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Betts was thrown out trying to score from second base on Freeman’s single to left field. Jurickson Profar’s throw just beat Betts to the plate, and Betts, looking somewhat tentative, did not attempt to slide.

“It was a great send,” said Roberts. “It's got to still be a good throw. And I don't think he wants to take on [Padres catcher Jorge] Alfaro. So I think he made the right decision.”

Betts and the Dodgers will continue to do what they can to manage his pain, which could mean giving him some opportunities at second base. Betts has made 23 career appearances at that position, including five starts there for the Dodgers in 2021.

Certainly, the Dodgers are a much better team with Betts, who is their table setter, as well as the team leader in homers, runs scored and slugging percentage, while being tied with Freeman in fWAR, entering Sunday. In games Betts has started in 2022, the Dodgers are 38-22 (a .633 winning percentage). In all other games, they are 11-7 (.611), though they went a strong 10-5 while he was sidelined.

Roberts acknowledged that, if it were another player with this injury, the return might not have been quite as expedited. But a lot of that has to do with who Betts is as an athlete.

“Mookie is built to play every day,” said Roberts. “Certain players are built to play every day. And with that, there's going to be some times where you're not your best. … With this situation, he's still injured, but he feels that him being in the lineup still makes us a better ballclub.”