SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers promoted top prospect Cody Bellinger on Tuesday, an accelerated arrival to the Major Leagues because of a slumping offense and outfielder injuries. He was immediately slotted into the starting lineup, batting eighth and playing left field against the Giants.Bellinger went 1-for-3 in the Dodgers' 2-1
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers promoted top prospect Cody Bellinger on Tuesday, an accelerated arrival to the Major Leagues because of a slumping offense and outfielder injuries. He was immediately slotted into the starting lineup, batting eighth and playing left field against the Giants.
Bellinger went 1-for-3 in the Dodgers' 2-1 victory over the Giants, recording his first Major League hit on an infield single in the ninth inning.
To make room for Bellinger on the roster, the Dodgers optioned outfielder Brett Eibner to Triple-A Oklahoma City and designated righty Joe Gunkel for assignment.
The 21-year-old Bellinger is a natural first baseman, a position now occupied by struggling veteran Adrian Gonzalez. But Bellinger will begin his Major League career as an outfielder, said manager Dave Roberts, who started the left-handed hitter against Giants left-handed starter Ty Blach.
• Callis: What to expect from Bellinger
The Dodgers' outfield has been decimated by injuries to Andre Ethier (herniated disk), Joc Pederson (strained groin) and Franklin Gutierrez (strained hamstring), as well as the rough start of Trayce Thompson, who is batting .028 at Oklahoma City and struck out four times Tuesday.
Roberts said Bellinger's callup was not a sign that Pederson's injury was worse than originally believed when he was placed on the 10-day disabled list Monday.
"As far as Joc, I talked to him [and] we're still tracking the right way with him," Roberts said.
Bellinger, who is ranked as the 10th-best prospect in baseball, looked overmatched during Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, hitting .207 with a .639 OPS and 20 strikeouts in 58 at-bats.
"I was working with [hitting instructor Shawn] Wooten all spring," he said. "I told him I didn't care about the results, I was working with a new swing so I could hit more advanced pitching. The ball moves; it's not just straight heaters all the time. I was working on my swing path and my stance and just hoped it would work out during the season, and it happened."
Bellinger had been a standout at Oklahoma City this year, where he was hitting .343 with five homers, 15 RBIs and a 1.055 OPS in 67 at-bats. He's also struck out 22 times to go along with nine walks.
Bellinger said he learned of his promotion in a 2 a.m. telephone call from Gabe Kapler, the team's director of player development, after missing four calls while sleeping.
"I was kind of speechless; I was half asleep," said Bellinger. "I called my parents. I think they started crying on the phone. Pretty cool for me. [Kapler] said all your hard work has paid off. I didn't expect it, but I'm ready for it."
Bellinger's father, Clay, played for the Yankees and coached Cody into the Little League World Series. The son was drafted out of high school by the Dodgers in the third round and decided to take a scholarship offer from Oregon, but the Dodgers "came through" with third-round money ($700,000 compared to $409,000 slot allotment), and he signed.
Bellinger was a skinny 160-pounder who hit only three homers in 2014, but he exploded for 30 in 2015 and now plays at 210 pounds. A slick fielder at first base, he was told in Class A that outfield versatility might get him to the big leagues faster. And it has.
"Two years ago in Rancho [Cucamonga], they recommended it and I was all for it," he said. "I'm comfortable out there and feel I can play there right now."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
With 61 homers and 189 RBIs since the outset of 2015, Bellinger represents one of the top power prospects in all of baseball. The lefty slugger may not hit for a high average out of the gate if his swing-and-miss tendencies carry over from the Minors, but he nonetheless should be added in all leagues given his potential to mash from the middle of a formidable Dodgers lineup.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.