Mookie Betts injury exposes a serious problem for the Dodgers

Your season could now depend on a medical prognosis made by a doctor who is not a real doctor.

The Dodgers were built to deal with the types of injuries that hit them earlier this season, from Clayton Kershaws and Andrew Heaneys in the early weeks to Walker Buehlers and Blake Treinens stretching into the final months could.

What baseball’s most expensive team isn’t willing to do is play without their best player for an extended period of time, which is why manager Dave Roberts had better be right that Mookie Betts can return from a broken rib in a few weeks.

Even for a team known for their depth, Betts’ injury could be one injury too many.

The absence of the former Gold Glove right fielder has already cost the Dodgers a game as the misadventures of defensive back Eddy Alvarez contributed to a 5-3, three-round loss to the Cleveland Guardians at Dodger Stadium on Sunday.

Here’s the alarming part: The defense wasn’t the problem Roberts envisioned when Betts was officially placed on the injured list ahead of the game.

Roberts claimed he wasn’t overly concerned about his team’s condition at the time, but the lineup card he submitted said otherwise.

Justin Turner was pulled from the middle of the lineup and moved to seventh between Cody Bellinger and Alvarez.

“Losing Mookie kind of made me think twice about how I put the lineup together,” admitted Roberts.

The roster change exposed the lineup for what it is, a top-heavy order that now comes down to two reliable offensive players in Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman.

The Dodgers’ offense isn’t nearly as explosive as expected and the depth of the team isn’t as impressive as it was in some previous seasons. Max Muncy hits .153, Bellinger .212 and 37-year-old Justin Turner .200. Roberts said the Dodgers are exploring “external” options to add a right-hander reinforcement.

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts falls after colliding with center fielder Cody Bellinger.

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts, right, falls after colliding with midfielder Cody Bellinger Wednesday as he tried to make a catch against the Angels.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The weaknesses were particularly evident as Betts and Freeman slowed down over the past few weeks.

The Dodgers averaged 5.5 runs per game in May. That number dropped to 3.5 in June. They are 7-9 this month.

The way they play now, they don’t look like a World Series team. They have too many other crucial elements working against them, from their lack of a traditional starter up front to the unraveling of closer Craig Kimbrel.

Roberts has declined the option of rescinding the championship guarantee he made before the season, but is beginning to sound like an insurance adjuster pointing out the fine print when reviewing a claim.

“I made the footnote that we need to keep our starting spot healthy,” Roberts said earlier in the week.

The Dodgers remain in first place in the National League West, but the San Diego Padres are just a half game behind and the defending champion San Francisco Giants are three games behind. (The Padres now have their own problems as Manny Machado sprained an ankle on Sunday.)

No matter what he says, Roberts cannot be comfortable.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts leaves the field after making a pitching change.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts leaves the field after making a pitching change June 4 against the New York Mets.

(Alex Gallardo/Associated Press)

The tension in his voice was evident as he recalled the game Betts was injured, a collision with Bellinger in the first game of Tyler Anderson’s no-hit bid against the Angels on Wednesday.

“That shouldn’t be happening,” Roberts said. “It was early in the game so it’s not like a crowd situation.”

Playing the rest of the game, Betts attempted to save Anderson’s no-hitter by diving after Shohei Ohtani’s triple in the ninth inning. Betts said he doesn’t know if he aggravated the injury during the game.

“It hurt, but the time and the situation there, you have to dive, even if you have a chance, you don’t have a chance,” he said. “At this point it’s for my teammate, so you’ve got to do what it takes to help him to a no-hitter. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it.”

Betts and Roberts were heartened when Bellinger suffered a similar injury last September and was able to return in less than two weeks.

“It’s not disappointing at all,” said Betts, who leads the Dodgers with 17 home runs. “It’s kind of part of it. It’s like a crazy accident. I’ll be out for a couple of weeks and I’ll come back and still help the team win.”

Betts said he doesn’t know if he’ll be joining the Dodgers on their upcoming three-city trip.

The informed temperatures at the first stop in Cincinnati could be around 100 degrees, Betts said dryly: “Then I probably won’t go.”

The moment of frivolity was in order – for now.

If Betts is still answering questions about when he might return a month from now, the Dodgers won’t be in a joking mood. Mookie Betts injury exposes a serious problem for the Dodgers

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