Notes: Taylor, Belli day to day; Knebel shines

April 6th, 2021

Despite beating the A’s 10-3 on Monday behind a dazzling performance by Dustin May, Dodgers star outfielder and utility man were removed from the game due to injury.

Bellinger was taken out of the game in ninth after a collision at first base with A’s pitcher Reymin Guduan. Manager Dave Roberts said after the game that Bellinger got cleated in the calf area during the play and the team is considering him day to day. Bellinger limped around after the play and carried a slight limp into the visiting clubhouse.

As for Taylor, he suffered a left elbow contusion after being hit by a Frankie Montas fastball in the third inning. Taylor initially stayed in the game and came around to score on a wild pitch, but was taken out of the game in the bottom half of the frame. Zach McKinstry moved from left field to second base, while AJ Pollock came off the bench to play left field.

Roberts said Taylor’s X-ray came back negative and he is also considered day to day.

“He’s as tough as they come,” Roberts said. “Arm went numb and he wanted to hang in there, but it just didn’t kind of come back and I wanted to get him out of there and get some treatment."

The 30-year-old has been a big part of the Dodgers’ success due to his versatility. Taylor’s ability to play all over the diamond has allowed manager Dave Roberts to give other players consistent days off. Taylor has already played four different positions this season.

Knebel shines thanks to uptick in velocity
With Kenley Jansen unavailable for Sunday's series finale in Colorado, Roberts had a decision to make regarding which high-leverage reliever he turned to in order to record the save in a two-run game.

Since the beginning of spring, Roberts has talked about Corey Knebel being a leverage reliever. Roberts backed up those words with his actions, handing the ball to Knebel, who tossed a perfect inning and locked up his first save since Game 1 of the 2018 National League Championship Series … against the Dodgers.

"I know there’s not going to be too many of those in my shoes, but that was special for me to have my first [save] in three years,” Knebel said. “I know I can do it. I know I have the stuff. Every opportunity I get, I have to take it and run with it.”

Knebel is certainly running with the opportunity, one he didn’t know if he would get when the Brewers designated him for assignment in December.

After Tommy John surgery wiped away his entire ‘19 season, Knebel’s velocity wasn’t the same in ‘20. He was averaging just over 94 mph, way down from the 96.9 mph average he posted before the surgery.

He finished with a 6.08 ERA in 15 appearances with Milwaukee last season, but a slight increase in velocity on his four-seam fastball intrigued the Dodgers enough to trade for him once the Brewers cut him loose. Taking a chance on a reliever that had previously recorded an elite season is not unusual for the Dodgers, with Blake Treinen being a prime example of that last season.

Taking a flier on Knebel is starting to pay off for the Dodgers. Yes, even after just one game. Why? Because the numbers say that Knebel is getting closer to the pitcher he was in ‘18, and further away from the one he was last season.

“I’m feeling comfortable enough to just go out there and throw it,” Knebel said. “I think that’s when I’m at my best, when I’m not trying to aim and everything just works out.”

That comfort is starting to reflect in the numbers. Knebel averaged 96.2 mph on the seven fastballs he threw on Sunday. Because of a grip change on the curveball, the pitch had more spin in his first outing (2890 rpm) than ever before in his career.

The stuff appears to be trending in the right direction. Now it’s just a matter of finding consistency for Knebel. Sunday was just one start, but a healthy Knebel could help elevate the Dodgers’ bullpen and give them another late-inning option behind Jansen and Treinen.

“The stuff has continued to tick up and you can see signs that it’s continuing to get better and better. He’s getting stronger and stronger. The confidence is continuing to grow,” Roberts said. “I still believe there’s still a lot of upside as he gets more comfortable pitching regularly, which he hasn’t done in quite some time. But he’s an easy bet, man. I just love the player, love the person and obviously love the stuff.”

Weekend festivities
The Dodgers announced on Monday that the team will wear special-edition Nike jerseys and New Era caps on April 9-11 against the Nationals, their first series at Dodger Stadium this season. The jersey and cap will feature gold-outlined logos, a World Series Champions patch and a gold “VII” on the sleeve to recognize the franchise’s seven World Series titles.

Aside from the special uniforms, the Dodgers have a set of pregame activities planned throughout the weekend. The Dodgers will raise their championship banner and receive their rings on Friday, they’ll have a pregame tribute for Tommy Lasorda before Saturday night's game and they’ll honor the 40th anniversary of Fernandomania on Sunday. On Friday, the stadium and auto gates will open at 10:30 a.m. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 11:45 a.m. for pre-game ceremonies.

The Dodgers also announced that the April weekend series against the Nationals (9-11) and Padres (22-25) are sold out.