LOS ANGELES -- Max Muncy, his entire left ring finger wrapped, said he was hit in a recent intrasquad game by a pitch he visually picked up late while adjusting to the new batter’s eye in center field.
Muncy said he hasn’t tried to grip a bat since the weekend incident, but he’s confident he’ll be ready by Opening Day on July 23 and he’d find a way to be playing now if it was the regular season or postseason.
“It’s not as bad as what it could have been, thankfully,” he said. “It’s a pain tolerance thing. No reason to rush it right now. As long as we’re ready for Opening Day. I can move it now, but it’s one of those things where it’s pretty painful. Just got to deal with it. I feel pretty good that I’ll be ready by Opening Day.”
As if keeping players on the field isn’t tricky enough during a pandemic, Muncy’s injury apparently is an indirect result of the $100 million Dodger Stadium renovation, which reconfigured pavilion seating and required the installation of a new batter’s eye, the dark area beyond the center-field fence that provides a visual backdrop for the batter. The utility of the old backdrop was widened by tarping over several sections of pavilion seats, while the new one appears smaller in total area covered.
“A pitch ran up and in and hit me right on the finger,” he said. “It was one of those things where I didn’t really see the ball, adjusting to some of the changes we got out there. Never saw it.”
Muncy said he was hesitant to provide much detail about the difficulty in picking up pitches currently, but said this much:
“I will say, pitchers are pretty happy about the batter’s eye out there. It’s something we’ve got to get used to.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said other hitters have complained about the batter’s eye, calling it "a little unsettling" while expressing confidence the situation will be rectified.
The Dodgers have nine players currently not participating in workouts without club explanation -- Kenley Jansen, Gavin Lux, A.J. Pollock, Pedro Báez, Scott Alexander, Keibert Ruiz, Zach Reks, Cody Thomas and Edwin Uceta. The last three were placed on the 10-day injured list on Monday with no reason given. Tony Gonsolin took part in workouts on Tuesday for the first time since camp officially opened on Friday.
Losing Muncy, who is coming off back-to-back years with 35 homers, is a truly scary proposition in a 60-game season, even for a lineup as loaded as the Dodgers’. Muncy missed two weeks late last season after sustaining a right wrist fracture when hit by a pitch.
Muncy has ridden the professional roller coaster, released by the A’s three seasons ago, rewarded with a multi-year contract by the Dodgers in the offseason. He said he never considered not playing this year because of COVID-19. The only teammate that has decided not to play so far is pitcher David Price.
“For me, it was never an issue,” Muncy said. “I was going to play 100 percent, regardless what the situation was. It was just one of those things. I’ve been out of baseball before. I love baseball and I’ll do anything I can to play it the years I have left. We only have a certain time window we can play this game and I don’t want to miss any more time than I already have.”