Belli's red-hot July is 'must-watch television'

July 21st, 2023

CHICAGO -- understands the realities of baseball, certainly this time of year when the Trade Deadline starts approaching.

So, despite never being in the position he currently finds himself in -- as a potential top trade chip around Deadline time, Bellinger knows there is only so much he can control.

“A lot of it is out of my control -- if I go, where I go, whatever happens,” Bellinger said. “So, for me, I can only focus on the game and just staying within the game, and just focusing on that. That’s it.”

That focus has been evident in recent weeks. For all the speculation and rumors, and his future with the Cubs being a bit of a question mark, the 2019 NL MVP is putting together one of the best months of his career.

Friday, his 3-for-4 performance in which he fell a triple short of the cycle helped the Cubs knock off the Cardinals 4-3 at Wrigley Field.

“He's a really good player, man,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “That’s why he’s a former MVP, right? The guy is an absolute stud of a baseball player, and he's a pleasure to be around. 

“He’s the total package, for sure, especially when he's playing like this.”

Bellinger’s final few seasons with the Dodgers were injury-plagued, and after Los Angeles non-tendered him, he landed with the Cubs on a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2024.

Bellinger has put together a strong season that has really taken off over the past month. He leads all qualified hitters with a .442 average (38-for-86) since June 24. He returned from the injured list (left knee contusion) June 15.

Over his last 30 games, he’s slashing .380/.415/.602 with six home runs, all of which have come in July -- after he went homerless in May and June. Bellinger entered Friday first in baseball with 27 hits this month.

His 1.293 OPS through 17 games in July would be his second-best in a single month in his career.

“It’s must-watch television,” Cubs starter said. “I feel like everybody, when he comes up to bat at this point, is watching the TV. Because even when he gets down 0-2, 1-2, you know the at-bats he still puts together. He’s unbelievable. 

“It's so much fun to watch. Every time he comes up, I'm making sure I'm watching.”

Bellinger hit a double in his first plate appearance Friday, a line drive to right-center field in the second inning. In the third, he launched a two-run homer to right field that traveled a Statcast-projected 400 feet, landing just under the Wrigley Field video board.

He added a single in the fifth and in the seventh grounded out to second base.

“He doesn't overthink things,” Ross said. … “He just comes every day with the willingness to get better and tries to win a baseball game. That's all he's focused on. He handles everything the same. Even when he's scuffling, he feels like he's locked in. 

“He’s just got a great demeanor about him. It’s a really easy way, and that's how you go through a full season. He’s been through a lot, a full season of ups and downs. He's been good, he's been bad. He's been on championship teams. He's a winning baseball player.”

The Cubs have been in a gray area as far buying or selling at the Deadline. They’ve had an uneven stretch in which they’ve lost some ground in the NL Central race

Bellinger, who could be one of the biggest bats on the trade market, was asked whether the Cubs’ front office has communicated with him at all about trade rumors or anything along those lines.

“For sure,” Bellinger said. “We’re a very open communication group here. Like I said, I'm in the loop on what could happen, what couldn't happen. So, open communication. And like I said, I just like to focus on what I can control. That's it.”

Bellinger can become a free agent after this season. If the Cubs opt to sell, they could trade him in the next few weeks to recoup some value ahead of that point -- while still having the option to negotiate with him this winter if he does hit the open market.

But with the way he’s hitting -- and providing Gold Glove caliber defense at two positions -- he’s the type of player who could carry the Cubs.

“Cody Bellinger is a good player. He's important for our team. What else do you guys want me to say?”  Ross said, laughing. “He's a really good player. I don't know what else to say. 

“He's awesome. He's great. He's amazing.”