Mookie makes smashing return to LA lineup

April 14th, 2021

answered any lingering questions about his ailing back in the third inning of the Dodgers' 7-0 win over the Rockies on Tuesday night with a monstrous home run to left field at Dodger Stadium.

The 394-foot blast off Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. It was Betts’ second home run of the season, and it came in his first game since missing four consecutive contests because of a stiff lower back.

In the hours leading up to the game, Betts declared that he was “ready to go.” He proved it less than 90 minutes after first pitch.

“It kind of turned a corner a couple of days ago, but just wanted to kind of get all the way over the hump so I don’t have to feel it again,” Betts said before the game. “I don’t know exactly what happened, but it was kind of bugging me running, and that’s a big part of my game.”

The outfielder said he has never experienced this type of back stiffness and the foreign sensation was a scare. Betts added that there was not any structural damage to his back, and he sat out games as a precautionary measure. Although he did participate in the Opening Day and ring ceremony at home last week, Tuesday was his first regular-season game in a Dodgers uniform in front of the fans at Dodger Stadium.

“I soaked in the ring situation a long time ago, and that's done and over with, that page has turned,” Betts said. “I’m focusing on getting back out there to play and so that's kind of where our mindset is right now. Let's just focus on today and going forward from there.”

The National League West-leading Dodgers entered Tuesday’s series opener with an 8-2 record. The club went 3-1 in Betts’ absence thanks in large part to Zach McKinstry, who leads the team with 10 RBIs and is slugging .679 with a 1.033 OPS. He’s also hit two home runs. Edwin Ríos also saw action in right field with Betts out of the lineup.

“There are obviously young guys that are helping our team a lot,” Betts said. “I didn't want them to feel like they're taking over my role or feel like they had shoes to fill or anything. I wanted them just to be who they are and they're plenty good enough to be on this roster and help.”

Last season, Betts was among the team leaders when the Dodgers and Giants decided not to play in protest of a police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. Betts did not consider sitting out this week in response to the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, Minn.

“I was already not playing, so didn't really consider not playing,” he said. “But obviously, just got to take steps to make things better. It's not going to happen overnight. It’s just a long road ahead, for sure.”