LOS ANGELES – A bad back has kept the amount of entries Adrian Gonzalez has written into this storybook Dodgers season. And now that he’s due to return soon, just how often will the veteran slugger be allowed to pen?
The Dodgers have not had to pine for Gonzalez’s return as the emergence of rookie star and would-be most valuable player candidate Cody Bellinger has effectively reduced Gonzalez to part-time status, which is exactly what the 35-year-old will be when he comes back.
Gonzalez went hitless in his first four at-bats while playing in his sixth rehabilitation game for the Dodgers’ Class-A affiliate in Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday but remains on a path to meet up with the Dodgers on a trip that begins in Detroit on Friday and continues on to Pittsburgh, Manager Dave Roberts said before Saturday’s game against San Diego.
Bellinger, with his 33 home runs and 78 RBI entering Saturday, is obviously entrenched as the regular first baseman. And while Bellinger can play the outfield, hot-hitting Chris Taylor has also pinned down a spot in left with his emergence as an impact bat at the top of the order.
The presence of those two limits the opportunities for Gonzalez, who has been on the mend from a herniated disk in his back that has limited him to one homer in his 182 plate appearances. But Roberts is intent on finding him a role.
“Obviously he’s going to need to play and stay sharp and get back into the flow of things,” Roberts said. “The way that we’ve run Chris Taylor out there a lot and Cody out there a lot, there are some days where they can get a day and give Adrian opportunities. And we understand that.
“Going forward, we’re better with Adrian on our ballclub.”
How he fits into the daily Dodger equation is something that Roberts and Gonzalez have already discussed. His presence does allow for Roberts to further move his lineup around as he sees fit and have at his disposal a proven – and potentially potent – bat off the bench.
Roberts wouldn’t commit to how many days he sees Gonzalez playing each week but allowed for the likelihood that he’ll see action against right-handed starters. Gonzalez could play first on days when Taylor can move to center to give Joc Pederson a day off and Bellinger can switch to left.
Gonzalez could also see some time upon activation as their designated hitter next weekend in Detroit, but those will be the Dodgers’ final three interleague games. Roberts said he expects Gonzalez to…