Souza called up: Dodgers 'threw me a raft'

June 17th, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- When got designated for assignment by the Astros at the end of Spring Training, the veteran outfielder thought his baseball playing days were over. He was 32 years old and was coming off a spring where he hit just .095 in 21 at-bats.

For the first time in his life, Souza doubted his abilities on a baseball field. He hadn’t been the same since undergoing season-ending surgery to repair an ACL tear, LCL tear, partial PCL tear and posterior lateral capsule tear in his left knee in 2019.

But as he doubted, the Dodgers called Souza just a few days after he got DFA’d, telling him that they still believed in his ability. Maybe it’s not quite the ability that led him to a 30-homer season with Tampa Bay in 2017, but they felt it was enough to help them chase back-to-back World Series titles.

“These guys talked me out of it and let me know that it was still in there,” Souza said. “You know, my wife believed in me and all my family and friends believed it, but when you struggle through an injury for a couple years, and you’re just not doing what you’re used to doing, eventually you start thinking, ‘Well, maybe I just can’t do it anymore.’ This organization put the belief back in my heart.”

Souza said he had other offers after he was DFA’d by the Astros, but he eventually signed a Minor League deal with the Dodgers. He knows the club's history of getting players back on track, and he really believed in the messages the organization conveyed.

“We went into Minor League camp and we spent hours and hours of just working back mechanics. You just don’t get that opportunity to do those types of things unless you slow down,” Souza said. “They threw me a raft and let me breathe and kind of reset myself. I’m forever grateful for it.”

All that hard work finally paid off on Wednesday, as the Dodgers decided to select Souza’s contract, designating right-hander Nate Jones for assignment in order to clear room on the 40-man roster.

Souza got the news at 2 a.m., getting the call from former teammate and assistant general manager Brandon Gomes. He was in the Dodgers’ lineup right away, starting in right field and hitting seventh.

“Brandon and I played together in Tampa,” Souza said. “So it was kind of a full circle thing.”

Getting the call to the big leagues again -- one that he doubted would come -- is just the next step for Souza. Now he’ll be tasked with helping the Dodgers, who have been hit hard by the injury bug this season. The team is without Max Muncy, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger -- who are all on the injured list -- and are in need of some outfield help.

That’s where Souza comes in, especially against left-handed pitching. And for the first time since sustaining the freak injury in 2019, Souza feels like his swing is back to where it needs to be. He feels that his lower and upper body are connected once again and he no longer fears hurting his knee.

It remains to be seen just how Souza fares with the Dodgers, or how long his stint with the team will last. But he said he’s having fun playing baseball again and will be soaking in every moment. After all, these are moments he once doubted would ever come.