Bellinger debuts with new stance: 'Felt great'

Kershaw has rocky outing vs. Brewers; Bauer rolls in relief

March 16th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. --  took his first Cactus League at-bats since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder over the offseason, and there was a noticeable difference in the Dodgers outfielder’s batting stance.

Bellinger is still standing straight up, but his stance was clearly more open than it was during the 2020 season. The batting stance he broke out during the Dodgers’ 7-2 loss to the Brewers on Tuesday was closer to what it looked like during the '17 season, the year he took home National League Rookie of the Year honors.

“I had a lot of downtime with the surgery, so I had a lot of time to think,” Bellinger said. “I’ve done it in the past, had success with it, and to be honest, I just feel really good with it.”

Bellinger said the change in stance had nothing to do with the approach opposing pitchers took last season, or the fact that he hit just .236 against four-seam fastballs last year as opposed to .328 against the pitch in 2019. The change was all about comfort, he said.

“Everything I’ve done is relatively close. It’s just a combination of learning throughout all my years of playing,” Bellinger said. “I feel confident with it."

In his first game since the offseason shoulder surgery, Bellinger went 0-for-3 with a pair of groundouts and a strikeout. He fouled off a few pitches in his first at-bat against Josh Lindblom, but ultimately grounded out back to the pitcher on a 2-2 count. In his next at-bat, Bellinger was fooled on a breaking ball and had an awkward swing for strike three. Finally, he grounded out into the shift near second base in his third at-bat.

The good news for Bellinger and the Dodgers, however, is that the star outfielder took big swings during the game, and it was a positive first step.

“It felt good. I felt really good,” Bellinger said. “Shoulder felt great and just felt good to get into a game again with the guys in front of some fans.”

Now that he’s back in the lineup, Los Angeles' priority over the next two weeks will be to give Bellinger enough at-bats. He played six innings in center field and has been participating in outfield and base-running drills all spring. The one part of his game that is behind, at this point in the spring, is not having as many in-game at-bats as in the past. The goal is to get Bellinger 30-40 at-bats over the next two weeks.

“I think the biggest challenge is just seeing live pitching,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I think that he’s obviously in great shape. … Standing around and playing center field is not going to be a problem. He’s kept his arm moving, so that’s not going to be a problem. The shoulder, as far as the surgery, is recovered, and the strength is there. Now, it’s just about getting out there, just taking consistent at-bats.”

The goal for Bellinger this spring has been to be ready for Opening Day. Tuesday served as a step in the right direction.

Kershaw and Bauer take the mound
Having two former Cy Young Award winners pitch for the same team in one game doesn’t happen often, but that’s exactly what the Dodgers did on Tuesday with Clayton Kershaw getting the start and Trevor Bauer pitching behind him out of the bullpen.

Kershaw, who is the team’s Opening Day starter for the ninth time, struggled to find success. The left-hander gave up back-to-back homers to Kolten Wong and Luis Urías to start the game, including Wong jumping on the very first pitch of the game. Kershaw allowed five runs on eight hits in his outing, but he was able to continue building up, throwing 72 pitches (46 for strikes) over four innings of work.

“Not great. Not a lot of positives,” Kershaw said. “Just gotta keep going [and] figure it out.”

Bauer, on the other hand, was sharp in his fourth outing of the spring, striking out seven and allowing two runs over five innings of work. Bauer retired the first six hitters he faced, including five consecutive strikeouts after getting his first batter to ground out. He struck out the side in the sixth inning and followed it by doing the "Conor McGregor" walk as he went back to the home dugout. Bauer threw 68 pitches.

“Trevor was good,” Roberts said. “He used all of his pitches. I thought he got ahead of guys the entire outing. Really professional outing.”