Unlike Joc Pederson and Corey Seager before him, Cody Bellinger did not make his MLB debut with a month left in the regular season before assuming a larger role the following year. Injuries required the Dodgers to call up Bellinger in April 2017, and he immediately took off.
Bellinger demonstrated his remarkable versatility by effectively playing the outfield despite being a natural first baseman. He set multiple records and went on to win National League Rookie of the Year by unanimous vote.
Though he was still productive, Bellinger regressed some last season as he took on a full-time role at first base. He’s been shifted back to the outfield, providing the Dodgers with an answer in right field in the wake of last winter’s trade that sent Yasiel Puig to the Cincinnati Reds.
With Bellinger in the midst of an MVP caliber season, former teammate Andre Ethier spoke fondly of watching the 23-year-old continue to grow yet still maintain a humble approach to the game, via David Vassegh on AM 570 L.A. Sports:
“I don’t know about proud. I would say more just excited. When you see guys who you know have the skills, know have the capability to go out and do it, and then they can execute it and keep it going, you’re excited for them. I mean, he’s had three stellar years. I know a lot of people say he had kind of a down year last year but I know a lot of guys who would take that year he had last year. And what’s he doing this year is even more special, but I think this is the caliber of player he’s capable of being. It definitely does help when you’re surrounded with teammates of this caliber. But he’s just taken advantage of it, not taken anything for granted, and I think that’s what’s exciting and great to see. A young guy who knows his spot, knows what he has in front of him and is going to take it and run off with it. He was always real receptive. Never had a big chip on his shoulder, never had a ‘been there done this attitude,’ and I think that shows why he’s having the success. Still today, you can see he still walks softly in that clubhouse. He isn’t walking around pounding his chest like he’s the man now. That’s the sign of a good teammate and good player who’s going to be around for a long time.”
While they were part of the same organization since Bellinger was taken in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB Draft, the two were only Dodgers teammates for one season in 2017. It was somewhat short-lived at that, as Ethier spent much of the year recovering from a complex leg fracture suffered in Spring Training.
When he was in the Dodgers clubhouse and not rehabbing in Arizona, Ethier often served as a mentor to Bellinger and some of the other young players.