GLENDALE, Ariz. — Don’t worry — it’s all part of Cody Bellinger’s plan.
“I’m not focused on the results at all,” said Bellinger who has struck out 14 times in 19 spring at-bats (including his past nine in a row). “I’m just getting my ‘punchies’ (strikeouts) out of the way in March, so they don’t happen in the season. It’s pretty smart if you think about it that way.”
That Bellinger is able to joke is probably a good sign — or the residue of a heart-to-heart with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts Sunday morning.
“I did have a good conversation with Cody,” Roberts said. “I think for me, to sum it up, I just want him to get back to being a good hitter. I think it’s hard to debate if that’s your goal and not worrying about slug and mechanics.
“He’s working really hard every single day with our hitting guys. But when you get into a game, go out there and compete and try to be a good hitter. He agreed. And there was a big smile from him saying, ‘I’m glad it’s spring training.’ It’s the truth. Some guys ramp up earlier than other guys. We’re on the same page.”
It is definitely the same page from Roberts’ message to Bellinger late last season when he talked to Bellinger before the postseason and asked him to put his disappointing regular season behind him.
“That’s a mindset and yes. That’s a mindset,” Roberts said, acknowledging his message hasn’t changed. “Not chasing slug, not chasing exit velo(city), not chasing launch angle. It’s being a good hitter. The best hitters in the game don’t chase those things. They try to be a good hitter and as a byproduct that’s what happens. Sometimes other stuff bleeds in — which we’re all guilty of. So I just wanted to reassure him — just be a good hitter first.”
Asked what he interpreted that to mean, Bellinger said, “it means you gotta be a good hitter — find your way to be a good hitter.”
If Bellinger has lost his way, he denies that it is because he has focused too much on trying to hit home runs.
“It may look like that, but that’s not what I’m trying to do,” Bellinger said. “I’m never just trying to launch home runs even though it looks like it.”
Bellinger said he is trying find a “happy medium” between the changes he made last year when his surgically-repaired shoulder was not at full strength and what feels comfortable to him now.
“My shoulder and body are feeling stronger than they did in the postseason,” he said. “I’m feeling more comfortable where I’ve had a lot of success in the past. It’s all about finding that approach and like I said, I feel closer than what it looks.”
Bellinger spent Sunday hitting in the batting cage and did not play in the Dodgers’ Cactus League game. It was a planned off day from game action, according to Roberts who said he gave Bellinger the option of playing in Monday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks or in a minor-league camp game (where he could bat every inning and get more at-bats than in a structured Cactus League game). Bellinger is expected to play against the Diamondbacks.
“Believe it or not, I’m actually feeling a lot better than the results are saying. That’s real,” Bellinger said. “That’s what spring training is about, obviously. You don’t want to do what I’m doing, but I feel better than what the stat sheets are showing.
“I really do feel close. I feel very confident in what I’m doing.”
The Dodgers’ Opening Day starter, Walker Buehler, threw 74 pitches in five innings in a ‘B’ game Sunday while left-hander Andrew Heaney started the Cactus League game.
Both will be in the starting rotation to start the season. Roberts has said there is not a “competition” to fill out the rotation this spring. After Sunday’s game, he indicated that the rotation at the start of the season will feature Buehler, Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Heaney with Tony Gonsolin as the fifth starter (though Roberts has not revealed the order).
“I think if you look at it right now, it’s pretty easy to see that Tony is projecting to be that (fifth) guy,” Roberts said. “He’s building up. He’s done it before. He has the weapons to be a starter. So I think that’s kind of where we see it now.”
With a compressed spring training, starting pitchers won’t have as much time as they normally would to build up their pitch count before the start of the season. Instead, the Dodgers plan to have several pitchers able to cover multiple innings with some of them doubling up in individual games. Roberts said he talked to Tyler Anderson about pitching in that secondary starter role.
David Price, meanwhile, might not be built up enough to pitch in a multi-inning role to start the season. Roberts said he is not even sure when Price will be ready to pitch in a spring game.
“I just think that David right is not an option in the sense of, he’s not built up,” Roberts said. “It just doesn’t seem feasible right now.”
Signed to a one-year, $8 million contract as a free agent before the lockout, Heaney said he has worked with the Dodgers’ staff on some changes to his pitch mix and has been trying to incorporate a new breaking ball in his first two Cactus League starts. The results have not been great — nine runs on 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings (a 15.19 ERA).
“I’m trying some new things. I think today was better than the last time out,” Heaney said. “There are some things I’m trying to do with the breaking ball that I haven’t done before. There were some times that it felt really good. Other times, not so great.
“I think I was really trying to push myself to throw the breaking ball a little bit more and find spots, hitters, places to put it, not put it and sometimes giving up some hard-hit balls, I’m like, ‘Okay, that’s not where I want to put it against guys like that.’ You want it to be breezy, obviously, but there are some times that it’s almost kind of good to kinda see what you can and can’t do out there.”
Buehler struck out nine, walked one and gave up three hits including a solo home run in his ‘B’ game. …
The Dodgers optioned left-hander Darien Nunez and right-hander Beau Burrows to the minor-league camp.