DENVER -- When Cody Bellinger suffered a non-displaced rib fracture last week against the D-backs, the Dodgers were hoping the outfielder wouldn’t have to miss any time with the injury.
All the tests and imaging came back clean, which was initially encouraging. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said it would all come down to just how much pain Bellinger would be able to withstand.
Following Monday’s off-day, Bellinger was initially scheduled to be in the Dodgers’ lineup on Tuesday. Those plans quickly changed once Bellinger said he still felt soreness. Hours later, the Dodgers placed Bellinger on the 10-day injured list with a left rib fracture, retroactive to Sept. 18. Outfielder Luke Raley was called up in his place.
“Just talking to him, even after the off-day, it’s still not where it needs to be,” Roberts said.
In Bellinger’s absence, the Dodgers will lean on Chris Taylor and Mookie Betts to handle most of the center field duties. Betts got the start on Tuesday against the Rockies. AJ Pollock, who has been sidelined since Sept. 4 with a left hamstring injury, could be back in the lineup as soon as Thursday, which would give the Dodgers a much-needed boost.
While Bellinger is eligible to return from the IL on Sept. 28, there’s still no definitive timetable on his return. The best case scenario is that he has a minimum stay on the IL and returns next Tuesday against the Padres. That would give him six regular-season games to get his timing back before the start of the postseason.
There’s also the possibility that the injury lingers and Bellinger spends more time on the IL, giving him less time to get on track before the playoffs. With the regular season coming to an end on Oct. 3, Bellinger still has time to return. The timing of the injury, however, is less than ideal.
“Yeah, it’s not ideal,” Roberts said. “But neither is, you know, being in too much pain to feel you can perform at a certain level. If that’s the case and that’s where we get to, we’ll just have to figure out how to make the most of it.”
This is now Bellinger’s third time on the injured list this season, the latest chapter in what has been a nightmare season for the 2019 National League Most Valuable Player.
Bellinger was held out of most of Spring Training as he recovered from offseason right shoulder surgery. Then a week into the regular season, he suffered a hairline left fibula fracture after getting cleated on a close play at first base by A’s reliever Reymin Guduan. That sidelined him for two months.
He also dealt with a minor hamstring injury that sidelined him for 10 days. Now, it’s a rib injury that he suffered in a collision in the outfield with new left fielder Gavin Lux.
Through all the injuries, Bellinger hasn’t been able to find any success at the plate. He is hitting .159 with nine homers in 302 at-bats so far this season. His 43 OPS+ is the lowest by any qualifying hitter in the Majors. It’s been a shocking development given that Bellinger was one of the most feared offensive players in the Majors just two seasons ago.
“He’s obviously frustrated that it’s something else that he has to deal with,” Roberts said. “But we’re going to deal with it together and just try to get him feeling as good as possible so he can help us win ballgames.”