MESA, Ariz. -- The postponement of Spring Training last season due to the coronavirus altered the way many players around the Majors prepare for a regular season. Some players weren’t affected once they took the field for Summer Camp in July, but others struggled to find their timing.
But Dodgers outfielder AJ Pollock said he benefited from the season hitting pause back in March. It gave him a chance to work with the hitting coaches, correcting some of the mechanical issues that were holding him back during Spring Training.
Once he got to Summer Camp, Pollock had a plan in place and was ready to apply it. The results quickly followed as the 33-year-old hit 16 home runs and finished with a career-high .881 OPS in 55 games last season.
“I got into some pretty good positions last year,” Pollock said. “You don’t have to be crazy, crazy strong to hit home runs, you just have to flush the ball and just be consistent and just keep building with it and see what happens.”
The Dodgers will certainly welcome the same type of production Pollock had in 2020, but the club might be asking even more of him in '21 now that Joc Pederson signed with the Cubs over the offseason. Pederson and Pollock formed a good platoon tandem last season, but left field could be Pollock’s position this season.
“He had a heck of a year last year,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “He hits lefties and righties, so he’ll be a regular out there.”
While Pollock will get the most of his opportunities in left field, the Dodgers will also lean on Chris Taylor, Matt Beaty and Zach McKinstry in the outfield. The idea behind having multiple options behind Pollock is to try and keep the outfielder healthy over the course of a 162-game season, which has been an issue throughout his career.
Pollock was able to stay healthy last year, but the outfielder hasn’t played more than 113 games in a season since his All-Star campaign with the D-backs in 2015.
“I think that he’s in a great place physically,” Roberts said. “Each year, he learns more about his body, but I do think having the depth that we have and to kind of manage playing time -- and that’s not just for AJ only, that’s for all of our guys -- but for AJ in particular, to be able to do that, is going to help him.”
Cactus League opener
The Dodgers opened Cactus League play with a 2-1 win over the A’s on Sunday at Hohokam Stadium. Non-roster invitee Matt Davidson hit the first Dodgers homer of the spring, launching a fastball over the left-center field fence in the final frame. Davidson’s homer had an exit velocity of 108 mph.
Davidson is “in the mix” for a roster spot, according to Roberts, and the Dodgers are open to having the veteran come out of the bullpen. Davidson has made six career pitching appearances, three with the White Sox in 2018 and three with the Reds last season. All three '20 appearances came in blowout losses.
“He’s got a good arm,” Roberts said. “He threw a bullpen the other day. Ball came out good, so he just gives us that versatility.”
Roberts said Davidson won’t pitch in a game soon. They team still wants him to throw a few more bullpen sessions and a live BP before they trot him out for Cactus League action.
“He’s just got a really, really advanced approach,” Pollock said about McKinstry. “He’s got a really, really calm demeanor. You don’t really see him get too rattled or too up or down, he’s just super consistent. His bat is definitely going to play in the big leagues, I think.”
Kelly, Ruiz update
• Joe Kelly was feeling under the weather earlier this week, but the right-hander was back in Dodgers camp on Sunday and has resumed his throwing program, according to Roberts. Kelly threw a few pitches off the mound this week, but has not yet thrown a bullpen session. Roberts said the team isn’t yet concerned about Kelly falling behind schedule in order to be ready for Opening Day.
• Keibert Ruiz, the organization’s No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has still not reported to camp due to visa issues. Ruiz traveled from Venezuela to the Dominican Republic, but there’s still no timetable for his return. In his absence, veteran catcher Tim Federowicz has stepped in as the No. 3 catcher behind Will Smith and Austin Barnes.