Despite losing their biggest addition of the winter for most of the first half of 2019, the Los Angeles Dodgers cruised to baseball’s best record with 60 wins before the All-Star break.
Getting A.J. Pollock back after the break, however, has added another dangerous new element to the already-potent lineup. In 10 games (nine starts) since his return, Pollock is batting .389/.439/.750 with one double, four home runs and 12 RBI.
That performance has helped erase a disappointing start to his Dodgers career, as Pollock’s on-base plus slugging percentage had dropped to .617 by the end of April. The veteran outfielder said he now feels more comfortable and relaxed with his new team, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts agrees.
“His body, his mechanics, seeing the baseball, with teammates, all that stuff. He’s just comfortable,” Roberts noted. “Now you layer that on top of a consistency, I think that’s kind of leading to results.”
Pollock has resumed his role as the team’s primary center fielder, something Roberts guaranteed when the 31-year-old was still on the injured list. That has created a bit of a logjam, as the Dodgers already had a productive outfield in Pollock’s absence thanks to Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo and Joc Pederson.
However, Pollock’s play has allowed him to stay in the lineup, moving Verdugo to left field with Pederson seeing more time at his new position of first base. When asked how Pollock improved the Dodgers’ lineup, Roberts did not mince words.
“Considerably,” the fourth-year Dodgers manager said. “Having him in there, taking quality at-bats but also being able to rest certain guys to then get them back fresh and back online, and we can do that with A.J., too. Throughout his career he’s played a lot as far as consecutive days, but to be able to manage his workload and keep him fresh, has a lot of value.”
The Dodgers’ ability to have four starter-level outfielders on their roster does indeed give Roberts plenty of options to keep everyone rested for a postseason push.
However, it also caused some to raise some eyebrows when Roberts first provided assurance that Pollock would get his old job back when healthy, given how well Verdugo had performed as the Dodgers’ center fielder in Pollock’s place.
Roberts, however, says he anticipated Pollock would improve once returning from the injured list.
“You don’t know the results but this is what I expected as far as how he takes the field every day. You like him in the batter’s box, he’s aware defensively, moving guys around, he’s engaged,” Roberts said. “So, yeah, this is what we expected.”