Bellinger could return to Dodgers Saturday

Notes: McKinstry also might come off IL this weekend; rotation set for SF series

May 27th, 2021

When exited the game on April 5 after getting accidentally cleated by A’s reliever Reymin Guduan, the Dodgers hoped the star outfielder would return to their lineup after a few games.

But once the injury wasn’t healing as the Dodgers hoped it would, Bellinger underwent more tests, which revealed a hairline fracture in the outfielder’s left fibula. Once the fracture was revealed, the Dodgers knew it would be a lengthy absence.

After nearly two months, that absence could finally be coming to an end soon, as manager Dave Roberts said “the hope” is for the Dodgers to have Bellinger back in the lineup on Saturday against the Giants.

Bellinger launched two home runs in his four rehab starts with Triple-A Oklahoma City, and he played center field and first base, though he didn’t play nine innings in any of the four games. He is now headed to Arizona, where he will face live pitching over the next two days, including a live BP session against right-hander Brusdar Graterol on Friday.

If Bellinger comes out of that feeling fine, then the Dodgers will make their decision.

“It’s all contingent on how Cody is feeling,” Roberts said.

Roberts wouldn’t commit to the former MVP playing center field exclusively once he returns. There’s a possibility that Bellinger could find himself playing first base.

“I’d like to say it’ll be center field exclusively,” Roberts said. “But if it makes sense to have him over there at first base to essentially manage the workload for that particular night to get his bat in the lineup, that certainly will be entertained.”

Max Muncy, who began the season as the team’s everyday first baseman, has been playing more second base since the club acquired Albert Pujols, and he could slide over to second in order to make room for Bellinger at first. Chris Taylor has been filling in for Bellinger in center field and will continue to get playing time there, as well as in both corner-outfield spots and in the middle infield.

A lot of the moving parts will come down to just how many games per week Bellinger plays when he’s activated and how he feels after playing multiple games.

McKinstry’s return also close
Bellinger isn’t the only player close to returning from injury, as utility man might also be activated during the weekend series against the Giants. Roberts hopes to have McKinstry back on the active roster either Saturday or Sunday. Getting more at-bats for McKinstry is a priority for the Dodgers.

McKinstry, who has been out since April 22 with a right oblique strain, would give the Dodgers another big boost, especially off the bench. The rookie recorded three hits, including a double, in his fourth rehab start on Tuesday, picking up right where he left off before the injury. He is batting .296 with an .883 OPS through 18 games and has given the Dodgers elite versatility, playing four positions for Los Angeles.

Pitching plans
The Dodgers have had a four-man rotation since Dustin May suffered a season-ending injury on May 1. That will continue at least one more time through the rotation, as Los Angeles will go with a bullpen game in the series opener against the Giants on Thursday. An opener will be announced following Wednesday’s game. David Price could be an option.

Following Thursday’s bullpen game, the Dodgers will go with Walker Buehler on Friday, Julio Urías on Saturday and Clayton Kershaw in the finale of the four-game set on Sunday. Tony Gonsolin, who will be the Dodgers’ No. 5 starter once he returns, is not eligible to come off the injured list until May 31.