The Los Angeles Dodgers stand to benefit with the expected returns of Rich Hill and Max Muncy this week, but Alex Verdugo remains on the outside looking in as the regular season inches closer to an end.
The 23-year-old has been sidelined since Aug. 6 with a right oblique strain and recently suffered a setback in his rehab assignment with Rookie-level Ogden.
He appeared in just one game before being shut down with back discomfort, scrapping the club’s original plans of getting him back for the start of a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
Verdugo has since returned to Camelback Ranch, although the status of his progression was recently described as “stagnant” by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. A silver lining is his oblique remained in good shape — which is what landed him on the 10-day injured list in the first place.
The rookie is taking dry swings at the club’s Spring Training facility, but a next step in his recovery has yet to be determined. In regards to a timetable for his potential return this season, Roberts is still unsure when Verdugo will be ready to rejoin the team, per Jack Harris of the L.A. Times:
“I really don’t know how much he’s doing as far as workload,” Roberts said. “As far as time to return, I really don’t have any clarity.”
Despite the lack of assurances, Roberts has maintained confidence that Verdugo will have enough time to return before the end of the regular season. Verdugo has roughly three weeks to make that a reality, though the Dodgers will likely continue proceeding with caution.
Should Verdugo successfully make his way back before the calendar turns to October, he’ll likely receive the bulk of his opportunities at one of the corner outfield spots to compensate for Cody Bellinger’s increased playing time in center field at first base.
In 106 games this season, Vergudo is batting .294/.342/.475 (114 OPS+) with 22 doubles, two triples, 12 home runs, 44 RBI and four stolen bases across 377 plate appearances.
In addition to his success on offense, Verdugo has thrived on the defensive end as well. He has committed just two errors in 756 innings, saving 13 runs while grading out to a respectable 3.7 UZR/150.
All-in-all, Verdugo has accumulated 3.1 WAR (Baseball-Reference) and 2.2 WAR (FanGraphs) for his efforts this season. He possesses the type of dynamic talent that could rise to the occasion during the postseason, but the odds of seeing that come to fruition continue to dwindle.