Already seven games back of the division-leading Diamondbacks with a 12-15 record, the Dodgers are off to a rough start this season. And although it’s still pretty early, some cracks are beginning to show. With the team down four in an eventual 4-2 loss to the Giants on Sunday, manager Dave Roberts benched first baseman Cody Bellinger due to what he said was a lack of hustle on a fifth-inning double. Bellinger seemed taken aback by the decision:
“I got in the dugout, and he said I was out of the game,” Bellinger told reporters after the game. “I didn’t know any reason. Just put on my jacket, went up to the railing and watched the game.”
Here’s the double in question. Bellinger definitely isn’t going all out as he heads into second, but at the same time, right fielder Austin Slater gets to the ball almost immediately after it lands, so a triple doesn’t seem like it would have been guaranteed. (Bellinger eventually getting doubled off to end the inning probably didn’t help matters, though.)
“There’s certain expectations in the way we have to play the game,” Roberts said after the game. “When you don’t abide by that, then we’ll get somebody in there who will.” The manager also said he talked to Bellinger earlier in the week about his effort.
The reigning rookie of the year, for his part, was quietly defensive in the clubhouse, saying, “I don’t think anyone can tell me how to play. I’ve always played hard.”
This is the kind of thing that probably doesn’t happen if the Dodgers had started the season hot. But they’ve lost five of their last six, including three of four over the weekend against the Giants, and that’s the kind of situation in which managers start feeling the need to prove a point.
The Dodgers have much bigger problems than a lack of hustle, though. Closer Kenley Jansen has already blown two saves after blowing none all of last year, Rich Hill is nursing injury troubles, and Clayton Kershaw walked six Marlins in five innings in the most recent outing of a below-average month. Still, with a four-game series starting today against Arizona, there’s an immediate opportunity to dispel all the doubts and mini-controversies with just a few wins.