With the Los Angeles Dodgers looking to bounce back from a second consecutive defeat in the World Series, and Cody Bellinger hopeful to put a productive but unimpressive sophomore campaign behind him, the start of the 2019 season provided positive returns.
The Dodgers set an Opening Day record with eight home runs; one of which was slugged by Bellinger. He hit three more during the series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, serving as a precursor of what was to come.
Bellinger tied or set multiple Dodgers and MLB records before May 1. He was named National League Player of the Month during that span and it catapulted him into the lead for MVP. Bellinger remained at the head of the race until regressing during the second half of the season.
He nonetheless was named NL MVP, holding off Milwaukee Brewers All-Star Christian Yelich and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon. While Bellinger and Yelich were pitted as rivals, the two developed a strong friendship.
Bellinger attributed Yelich’s strong season as added motivation for his pursuit of MVP, per Ken Gurnick and Sarah Wexler of MLB.com:
“Without [Yelich] having this good of a year … I think he pushed me to be a better player,” Bellinger said. “He’s an unbelievable player, but he’s honestly a better dude. We became buddies over the year.”
Bellinger also believes his versatility in the field aided his cause:
“I definitely think that helped,” Bellinger said. “I don’t know exactly what goes into the votes, but I’m glad that I had the opportunity to show off what I can do this year, for sure, out there.”
With the Dodgers trading Yasiel Puig over the offseason, Bellinger was moved from first base into right field. The transition was seamless, and the 24-year-old additionally played stellar defense whenever he was penciled in at first base.
Bellinger then was the everyday center fielder by the end of the regular season and during the NL Division Series. His defensive prowess didn’t come as a surprise to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who regularly touted Bellinger as being talented enough to win a Gold Glove at multiple positions.
For now, the two-time All-Star can revel in being the first player in Dodgers franchise history to win a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and MVP in the same season.
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