The Los Angeles Dodgers are well on their way to a seventh consecutive National League West title and potentially the best record in baseball despite numerous injuries to key players. Most recently, Max Muncy and Alex Verdugo landed on the 10-day injured list in August.
Muncy suffered a minor right wrist fracture after getting hit by a pitch against the San Diego Padres on Aug. 28. Verdugo has been on the IL since Aug. 6 due to a right oblique strain but recently began a rehab assignment with Rookie-level Ogden Raptors.
Fortunately, both seem on track to rejoin the active roster within the next week or so, as manager Dave Roberts has publicly named the same return timetable for each of them — the Dodgers’ Sept. 10-12 road series against the Baltimore Orioles.
“I don’t expect Alex to be ready to play with us until early next week; probably Tuesday in Baltimore. It’ll play itself out,” Roberts said.
“[Muncy] felt a lot better [Sunday] than he did in previous days. I know he’s not taking swings yet, but I think realistically I don’t see Max ready until probably that Baltimore series as well. As I understand it, he had a bat in his hand for a couple hours. I don’t know if he took any swings; I don’t think so.
“He’s getting antsy, which is a good thing for us. [Wednesday] he’s going to take ground balls. He’s been doing a lot of oblique and core stuff, staying in conditioning shape with his legs. I think the ensuing swings with the bat are coming.”
Both players had huge roles in the Dodgers’ run to the best record in the NL, especially in the first half. Muncy made his first NL All-Star team while Verdugo played his way into a starting outfield role among veterans Joc Pederson, A.J. Pollock and Cody Bellinger.
Muncy has also improved his defense at second and third base, allowing him to spell Justin Turner while becoming the team’s everyday second baseman when healthy. That opened first base for Bellinger and rookie Matt Beaty.
The positioning will allow Roberts to play Verdugo in the outfield alongside Pollock and Pederson, though Pederson may need some time to recover following an abdominal contusion he suffered on Monday.
It sounds like Verdugo will be deployed in right field when he returns alongside some combination of Pollock, Pederson and Bellinger based on pitching matchups. “I see Alex obviously in the mix, and performance matters. A corner spot,” Roberts said.
Initially, it appeared that the struggling Pederson would be the odd man out when Verdugo returned, but Pederson’s bat has come alive recently. He hit two home runs before his injury Monday.
Rich Hill, Dustin May to face hitters
As the Dodgers’ rotation has gone through some uncharacteristic struggles recently, their fourth starter in the playoffs behind Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw remains to be determined thanks to Rich Hill’s rehab process.
Hill has not pitched since suffering a left forearm flexor strain on June 20. He threw a bullpen session before Monday’s game, mixing his fastball and offspeed arsenal while throwing 35 pitches, according to Roberts.
“I think the next progression is to face hitters here, and that’ll be on Friday or possibly Saturday; our goal is Friday. And we’ll go from there,” Roberts said.
Hill is just one option for the Dodgers in their fourth starter role. Others include Tuesday night starter Julio Urias and rookies Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May.
Though, when May next pitches in a game is unclear. He was struck in the head by a line drive and dealing with residual soreness. May did pass a second concussion test, and like Hill, is slated to face batters — doing so Wednesday.
“Expect that to go well and then we’ll know his fate for the coming days,” Roberts said.