Cody Bellinger has blossomed into a National League MVP candidate and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ most important player in 2019.
Still, with the Dodgers enjoying a double-digit lead in the NL West, manager Dave Roberts gave Bellinger a day off on Tuesday and removed him in the sixth inning of a blowout loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday.
The Dodgers are nearing the end of a stretch in which they will have played 18 games in as many days. However, Roberts’ actions were not just to give Bellinger some rest in a particularly grueling stretch of the club’s schedule.
Roberts revealed Bellinger has been dealing with knee tendinitis since the club’s series against the Tampa Bay Rays last month, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“Cody’s had a little bit of patellar tendinitis that kind of started in Tampa on that turf. Just to get him out of the game and ready for four in Colorado was my thought.”
While Bellinger’s knee trouble has not proved severe enough to prevent him from playing regularly, it is still something to monitor going forward. Any serious injury to Bellinger in the midst of his rise to superstardom would be devastating to both him and a Dodgers team that he has helped power to the best record in baseball over the first half of 2019.
The tendinitis may also be impacting Bellinger at the plate. He entered the series against the Tampa Bay Rays, where he likely suffered from playing in their turf outfield, with a .404 batting average and 1.276 on-base plus slugging percentage.
While those rates were likely unsustainable over a whole season, Bellinger’s performance has dropped off noticeably since then. His .277 average and .971 OPS still show great production, but they are a far cry from Bellinger’s numbers before the Tampa series.
David Freese has also dealt with knee tendinitis recently, trying to play through it before being placed to the 10-day injured list over the weekend. The hope was Freese would return as soon as he was eligible, but his recovery and treatment hasn’t gone according to plan.
Bellinger also dealt with a minor shoulder injury earlier in May while playing first base in a series against the San Diego Padres. Afterwards, Roberts said the Dodgers would essentially play Bellinger exclusively in the outfield to avoid a possible recurrence of the injury.
That decision has led to Joc Pederson getting some starts at first base, in the hopes that he can platoon there with Freese when the latter gets healthy.
Bellinger has also done extremely well defensively in his first stretch of extended playing time in right field, as his eight outfield assists are second in the Majors and most in the NL.