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Bellinger given day off after struggles at plate

Roberts says there are no plans to demote first baseman; Santana named as Thursday's starter; Toles back with OKC
MLB.com @kengurnick

DENVER -- Slumping Cody Bellinger was benched on Sunday by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who hopes a two-day break will allow the 2017 National League Rookie of the Year to reset his offensive approach.

"He's never struggled like this," said Roberts. "As a young player, he's trying to make adjustments, and you get to the point where you wonder if you'll ever get a hit again. All players go through that at some point."

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DENVER -- Slumping Cody Bellinger was benched on Sunday by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who hopes a two-day break will allow the 2017 National League Rookie of the Year to reset his offensive approach.

"He's never struggled like this," said Roberts. "As a young player, he's trying to make adjustments, and you get to the point where you wonder if you'll ever get a hit again. All players go through that at some point."

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Sunday was the first time this year that Bellinger did not start against an opposing right-handed starting pitcher. Max Muncy started at first base.

Bellinger is batting .226 with eight homers, 25 RBIs, a .715 OPS and 58 strikeouts in 212 at-bats. Last year, he hit .267 with an NL-rookie-record 39 homers, 97 RBIs, a .933 OPS and 146 strikeouts in 480 at-bats. He's hitting .185 with runners in scoring position and a current 5-for-53 tailspin dropped his average from .270.

"Early on, there was guessing. Now, it's a little confidence wavering," said Roberts. "He's late on fastballs, every borderline pitch goes against him. The last month, it seems like he's 0-1 every single time at-bat. We've got to weather it together."

Video: LAD@COL: Marquez fans Bellinger with a fastball

Roberts said management is "not there yet" on demoting Bellinger to the Minor Leagues. He said in April that Bellinger struggled with the way pitchers attacked him, but in May, Bellinger simply was "not putting the barrel" on pitches in the strike zone. Bellinger's body language Saturday night convinced Roberts that a day off was needed.

"When a player starts to get down on themselves, as a manager, you've got to identify that and give him a blow," said Roberts.

Roberts rejected the theory that a change in Bellinger's offseason conditioning program has contributed to the slow start. Bellinger has said he felt the need to add muscle so he wouldn't wear down as he did late last season, but Roberts said Bellinger is only seven pounds heavier now than at the start of 2017.

Santana to start Thursday
Roberts named rookie Dennis Santana as the starting pitcher for Thursday's game in Pittsburgh. Ross Stripling starts Tuesday, and Roberts said the Wednesday starter is still undecided.

Brock Stewart is an obvious candidate to start on Wednesday, but also figured to be the long reliever on Sunday if nagging hamstring issues cut short Alex Wood's start.

Video: LAD@COL: Santana K's Gonzalez for 1st career K

Santana made his Major League debut on Friday night, allowing five runs in 3 2/3 innings and hitting a two-run double. He has been primarily a starter since being converted from shortstop in 2015.

Toles update
Andrew Toles, on the disabled list for Triple-A Oklahoma City since April 13 with a pulled hamstring, has rejoined OKC.

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

Los Angeles Dodgers, Cody Bellinger