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Pollock embraces LA's culture, expectations

Slugging outfielder brings competitive drive to Dodgers
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- If you trust Justin Turner, you can believe the offseason moves putting A.J. Pollock in the Dodgers outfield will work out just fine.

"First and foremost, the locker-room presence," Turner said. "He's a grinder, with the edge he brings to the team. He's a competitor, he doesn't like to lose. On top of the fact he's a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder. The attitude is a perfect fit for the clubhouse, to help us set the tone. He'll fit in well. Off the field, the stuff he does is off the charts."

LOS ANGELES -- If you trust Justin Turner, you can believe the offseason moves putting A.J. Pollock in the Dodgers outfield will work out just fine.

"First and foremost, the locker-room presence," Turner said. "He's a grinder, with the edge he brings to the team. He's a competitor, he doesn't like to lose. On top of the fact he's a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder. The attitude is a perfect fit for the clubhouse, to help us set the tone. He'll fit in well. Off the field, the stuff he does is off the charts."

On the field in 2018, Pollock, 31, slugged nine of his career-high 21 home runs against the Dodgers with a 1.108 OPS. If nothing else, the Dodgers have solved that annoyance.

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Pollock said he can't worry about being the next Yasiel Puig or Matt Kemp, the fan favorites he's replacing after signing for four years and $55 million. He rejects the reputation of being injury-prone, despite a hefty medical file.

Pollock broke his right elbow in 2010 Spring Training and missed the entire season after undergoing surgery to implant a plate that, it turned out, did not stabilize the joint as hoped, because one of the screws sheared off. Pollock played five more seasons with the elbow not truly healed until it broke again on a slide into home at the end of Spring Training 2016. He missed five months, but this time the surgery was successful.

Video: A.J. Pollock talks about the Dodgers' winning culture

In addition, Pollock missed three months of the 2014 season with a broken right hand when hit by a Johnny Cueto pitch, in 2017 he had a right groin strain and last season he fractured his left thumb trying to make a diving catch and missed six weeks.

"The elbow was the big one, the one people harp on," said Pollock. "The [2010] surgery just wasn't done the right way. It didn't feel right and it ended up re-breaking. This thing is just rock solid now, the surgeon the second time did an unbelievable job. I'm positive the elbow is behind me. Sometimes you play hard and impact things happen -- freak things. I feel healthy, my body feels great. I'm ready to take on any workload they want. I've been dealing with injury questions the entire free-agency process, but nothing is lingering."

Pollock's last completely healthy season was 2015 and it was his breakthrough -- All-Star, Gold Glove Award and career highs in games (157), average (.315), extra-base hits (65) stolen bases (39) and OPS (.865). If watching Pollock homering against them wasn't convincing enough, the Dodgers had the input of their new hitting coach, Robert Van Scoyoc, who also came over this offseason from the D-backs.

"[Pollock] and Robert really connected last year," said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers' president of baseball operations. "[Pollock] has an intellectual curiosity. He's always searching for ways to improve and we feel there's potentially more in there. He provides value in all phases of the game and someone who fits into our core and nucleus really well. He adds a lot of value in a lot of different ways."

Video: Pollock on joining Dodgers, fan reception at FanFest

And Pollock said he's excited about being on a team that expects to be in the World Series every year, after spending most of his career chasing the Dodgers.

"Every time they step on the field, they anticipate that they'll win that game and that's pretty cool. Not a whole lot of teams out there are like that," Pollock said. "They expect to be in the World Series and win the World Series. When [Clayton] Kershaw steps out there, he's an animal and he expects to win and you feel that on the other side, for sure."

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

Los Angeles Dodgers