'Beefed up' Betts 'a lot stronger' heading into '23

February 16th, 2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After the Dodgers’ 2022 season, star outfielder Mookie Betts met with team officials, and the conversation was centered on how he could improve moving forward. They told Betts that a trip to Driveline Baseball, the high-tech facility in Seattle, could be beneficial.

Trying to find an edge as he gets older, Betts agreed to make the trip to Washington. After going through tests at the facility, the result was in, and it was a pretty simple message: Get stronger.

“Losing weight equates to losing strength,” Betts said of his weight loss a few years back. “I was just little, man, so I had to gain my weight back.”

Over the last few months, that was Betts’ goal. He worked out a little more than usual, but the key was to start eating more. He stopped skipping snacks, he said, and started eating bigger portions. As a result, Betts came in weighing 178 pounds when he reported to Dodgers camp on Thursday. He played at 170 pounds last season. And if anyone is still wondering, Betts said he hasn’t been vegan for about four years.

“There’s only one way to find out [if the weight gain has worked],” Betts said. “But so far, I definitely have gotten a lot stronger and beefed up a little bit, so we’ll see how it goes.”

It’s not common for a star player to make a sizable change in his offseason routine, especially a player that is coming off an All-Star season. Betts finished with a career-high 35 homers in 2022. The six-time All-Star also finished in the top five in Most Valuable Player voting for the fourth time in his career and the second time since coming to the Dodgers three seasons ago.

But despite his accomplishments and overall good numbers, Betts was disappointed by how inconsistent he was last season. In May, Betts was arguably the hottest hitter on the planet, belting 12 homers and posting a 1.157 OPS in 28 games. The same could be said in August, when he hit nine homers and finished with a 1.080 OPS.

During parts of the other four months of the season, however, Betts was not nearly as effective. He got off to a slow start at the plate and didn’t hit his first homer of the season until April 22. In June, Betts had his worst month of the season with a .523 OPS. With Trea Turner and some other key contributors no longer on the team, the Dodgers will lean on Betts even more this season.

“I’m honestly not sure,” Betts said when asked why he had some ups and downs. “It definitely wasn’t from lack of effort. So I just continue to control the things I can control, and that’s putting in work and playing hard on the field. After that, that’s really all you can control and you just go have fun after that.”

Aside from needing him to produce big numbers on the field, the Dodgers will also need Betts to assume more of a leadership role inside the clubhouse. Betts did that before the 2020 season, and he led a hitters-only meeting last season that helped the Dodgers ratchet up the intensity.

Betts, however, isn’t the most outspoken player on the team. But he has turned into the face of the franchise and also has the longest and most lucrative contract on the team. With that comes some responsibility. Betts understands that, but he isn’t expecting many changes to his leadership style.

“I’ll sit back and watch as well. I’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Betts said. “I just kind of read the situation. I’m not here to try and be the leader, try and do this, try and do that. Whatever the situation calls for, you just be ready for it. That’s kind of what I do.”