GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Thursday that star outfielder Cody Bellinger is “progressing very well” over the last few weeks and everything continues to trend toward the former National League MVP being the team’s starting center fielder on Opening Day against the Rockies.
“It’s tracking really well,” Roberts said. “As he stated and as I stated, I expect him to be ready for Opening Day, and that still remains the case.”
Bellinger dislocated his right shoulder after forearm-bashing with teammate Kiké Hernández following Bellinger's go-ahead homer in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series against the Braves. The outfielder had dealt with shoulder issues in the past, but this time, he decided to undergo arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder over the offseason.
“To continue to have the risk of it popping out is bad for the labrum, and it’s dangerous,” Bellinger said earlier this spring. “If it would’ve popped out a few more times, I don’t know for sure, but I think the recovery is even longer. So for me to get it out of the way and get ready for Opening Day was worth it.”
The typical recovery time for those surgeries is about 10 weeks. Bellinger arrived at Camelback Ranch in January for rehab, a few weeks earlier than anticipated. So far this spring, Bellinger has tracked pitches in live batting practices and is a full participant in defensive and baserunning drills.
Bellinger has progressed from taking swings off a tee to taking batting practice on the field. The next step will be facing live pitching and then getting him into a Cactus League game. Bellinger said earlier this spring that they’re aiming for March 15, but Roberts wouldn’t commit to a specific date.
Gray makes spring debut
Top pitching prospect Josiah Gray made his first Cactus League appearance in the Dodgers’ 7-0 loss to the Cubs on Thursday. The right-hander was impressive in his first inning, striking out two on 20 pitches, 12 strikes. His fastball was sitting at 96 mph, and he utilized his wipeout slider to strike out Patrick Wisdom.
In Gray's second inning, however, he ran into some trouble. Michael Hermosillo won a nine-pitch battle to start the inning, taking Gray deep to left field on a 3-2 fastball. Gray proceeded to walk Ian Happ, ending his night. He threw 34 pitches, 19 for strikes.
“I thought his fastball was good, I thought he located well,” Roberts said. “It was a good experience for him. The velocity and the life of the fastball was certainly really good.”
Gray was acquired from the Reds along with Jeter Downs -- who was later traded to the Red Sox in the Mookie Betts deal -- in exchange for Yasiel Puig, Kyle Farmer, Alex Wood and Matt Kemp.
Since then, Gray has established himself as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 58 overall prospect. Gray spent the 2020 season at the alternate training site and will likely start this season at Triple-A.
• Jimmy Nelson also made his return to the mound on Thursday after missing the 2020 season due to back surgery. Nelson allowed one unearned run in his lone inning. The Dodgers are building up Nelson as a starter this spring as the right-hander could serve as a depth option this season. Nelson could also serve as a multi-inning reliever, if needed.
“Probably the highlight of the night,” Roberts said about Nelson. “Just getting him back out there on the mound, facing another team, and I thought it was good tonight.”
• Blake Treinen was sharp in his second outing of the spring, retiring the side in order in the fifth inning on Thursday. Treinen struck out David Bote on a 99 mph heater and reached 100 mph multiple times.