The door to Dave Roberts’ office stayed closed a little longer than usual after Monday night’s game.
Inside, the Dodgers’ manager had ousted Cody Bellinger, the formerly most valuable midfielder who collapsed again last week amid another season of ups and downs.
Bellinger’s efforts were not to blame. No admonishment on his attitude or work ethic.
But there was confirmation that Roberts believed it was time to give the 27-year-old a mid-season “reset” as batter counts began to fall again, and Bellinger said he would sit for the next few games.
“He has, I guess we all use the word ‘grinding’ a lot,” Roberts said Tuesday afternoon after actually dropping Bellinger from the lineup for the second game of the Dodgers series against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field.
“We had a good conversation and it’s more of a way of playing the short term and the long term to serve him best,” Roberts added. “This is a chance to give him one last chance, reset, pull away from things, not worry about getting hit, cheering for his teammates and then getting back in there and finishing strong.”
This week’s development is nothing new for Bellinger.
Since winning his National League MVP award with a 47-home run season in 2019, the two-time All-Star has been caught in a spiral that has now been in a three-year tailspin.
He declined during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season — despite making several key contributions to the run of the Dodgers’ World Series — and then hit rock bottom last year as he struggled with injuries and caught himself being “too internal.” , while hitting a dismal .165 with just 10 homers.
This year, Bellinger emphasized on Tuesday, feels different.
He has been healthy for most of the season. He said he’s been able to enjoy a lot more this season. And he thinks he was able to make a better contribution despite a .206 batting average and a .660 on-base plus slugging percentage, both better than last year but still well below league averages.
“Last year I sure was super internal and wasn’t having fun,” said Bellinger, who has 16 home runs and 50 RBIs this season. “This year I’ve had a lot more fun every day. Just fine-tuning what makes me really good.”
There were promising insights.
Bellinger got off to a good start in the year. In his first 15 games, he hit four homers with a .273 batting average. He was named NL Player of the Week in the third week of the season.
He slipped into a slump in early May but came out with a 10-for-27 stretch. He cooled off through June and most of July before turning hot a few weeks ago when he had a .954 OPS with three homers and 11 RBIs over an 11-game streak.
Over the past week, however, Bellinger has stumbled again.
In his last five games, he’s two for 19 with six strikeouts. He said he sees the ball well but doesn’t do enough damage on the courts in the zone.
He acknowledged that he’s probably also pushing and still trying to rediscover something that’s approaching his once-elite form on the record.
“The hardest thing, I think, is knowing what’s in there and not being able to really not even prove it to anyone, but to prove it to myself,” he said. “I know I can do it, but you put too much pressure on yourself.”
In addition to Tuesday’s game, Roberts said Bellinger will be back in the seat on Wednesday. He could come back Thursday or Friday.
“Very surprised,” Roberts said when asked about another disappointing season from Bellinger. “I think we all are. But I’m just looking at things, here we are. … So for me it’s just not helpful to look at how we got here. I’m trying to figure out how we’re going to move forward with him.
Roberts said it’s possible Bellinger could be moved more into a part-time traction role if things don’t work out for Bellinger at the track.
Despite Bellinger’s recent postseason track record — his racquet also springing to life last October, including a game-winning goal in Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants — Roberts conceded he’s “going to use the guys that gave us that.” Best give chance to win.”
So far this season, Bellinger has been on the fringes of that group.
With less than two months to go before the postseason, he will get at least one more chance to attempt a fresh reset.
“I just want him to know that we’re all supporting him in any way we can,” Roberts said. “We’re going to need him, and he understands that.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-08-16/dodgers-cody-bellinger-out-of-lineup-batting-slump Dodgers to sit Cody Bellinger amid another batting slump