On the field, the Dodgers and AJ Pollock had a warm reunion Tuesday afternoon.
Ahead of his first game against the team since joining the Chicago White Sox at the end of spring training, Pollock lingered in the cage while the Dodgers went through batting practice in guaranteed rate field.
He chatted and laughed with former teammates and coaches. He spoke to Dave Roberts for several minutes, with the manager putting an arm around his former outfielder for most of the time.
“AJ helped us win a championship,” said Roberts. “He’s very popular in the clubhouse and in the organization. Trading him in was tough for everyone.”
However, behind the scenes, the Dodgers identified Pollock as a potential weakness in the White Sox lineup.
In his first season in Chicago, the 34-year-old was fickle. He came out with a .216 batting average, three homers and a .586 percentage on base plus slugging. And while he wasn’t on the starting lineup, the Dodgers saw him as a potentially favorable matchup if he got to the plate against their bullpen.
“The way AJ swings the bat,” Roberts said, “I just felt like we could expand [the zone] on him.”
However, in a scoreless game in the sixth inning, Pollock made his old club pay by hitting a two-run double with a pinch hit that started a crucial rally in the White Sox’s 4-0 win.
“It’s good to win against anyone, but yeah, that’s a good ball club over there,” Pollock later told reporters. “I know this is a tough team. Certainly a bit special.”
After the starting pitchers, Mitch White and Michael Kopech traded zeros for five innings — Kopech didn’t give the Dodgers a hit until the fourth; White didn’t allow a White Sox baserunner until the fifth — Pollock’s moment came when Phil Bickford, who was being relieved by the Dodgers, scored two singles in the sixth.
Even with two outs and collapsing left-hander Gavin Sheets next up, Roberts turned to left-hander David Price from the bullpen. Roberts knew that would likely prompt White Sox manager Tony La Russa to send the right-handed Pollock to the plate. But given Pollock’s performance this season, Roberts was still confident.
“We talked about it before the game,” Roberts said, “and I just felt like AJ is a guy who didn’t swing the racquet well.”
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Price didn’t throw his first pitch very well. With catcher Will Smith lined up at the inside corner, Price left a cutter over the outside edge of the plate instead. Pollock swung around and lined it up with the right field line. Both baserunners ran around to score.
“We didn’t pitch,” Roberts said. “And that happens.”
The Dodgers (35-20) never recovered. Price gave up two more runs before the inning was over, which was the third straight game the bullpen has given up four runs. The lineup continued its own slump by being ruled out for only the second time this year. And the Dodgers opened up a tricky six-game journey by losing their sixth of their last eight.
“It’s one of those tracks where we obviously aren’t playing great,” said Justin Turner, who won his 1,000. Hit as Dodger scored on a night the team only managed five. “But I think we go through that all the time in baseball. It won’t be easy for us. Everyone is playing their best baseball against us.”
Former Dodgers included.
Pollock’s preseason trade for Craig Kimbrel, who will miss this series after being placed on paternity leave, was a match for both sides. The Dodgers had excess offensive talent but a gaping hole in the back of their bullpen. The White Sox (26-27) had a need in the outfield and wanted to get rid of Kimbrel. The deal gave both clubs a better balance.
That didn’t take the sting out of Pollock’s departure, however.
Though the outfielder struggled with injuries in three seasons with the Dodgers, after signing with the team as a free agent prior to 2019, he has always been productive when on the field — hitting .282 with .856 OPS in 258 games — and became an experienced leader of it.
He played a key role on the 2020 World Series championship team and then was one of the best players of the final season, including the playoffs.
On Tuesday, he showed he’s still reliable in the clutch and capped a day of friendly reunions with a moment of revenge.
“It was good,” said Pollock. “It’s always fun to fight these guys.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-06-07/ex-teammate-aj-pollock-provides-bit-of-payback-in-dodgers-loss-to-white-sox AJ Pollock provides payback in Dodgers’ loss to White Sox