Mookie Betts is back atop the Dodgers lineup on Sunday afternoon against the Padres, returning to action after missing 15 games with a fractured rib.
Betts ramped up baseball activities in the last week, including taking live at-bats before Saturday’s game at Dodger Stadium. He last played on June 15 against the Angels, when he suffered the injury during an outfield collision with Cody Bellinger in the first inning.
“I thought throwing was going to be the thing that was going to take a couple extra days, but God blessed me with some good genes, and I’ve been healing pretty quick,” Betts said during an in-game interview during Friday’s SportsNet LA broadcast.
Betts is expected to play second base for at least a few games in the coming days, though after Chris Taylor fouled a ball off his left foot Saturday, Betts will in fact play right field in his first game back.
Second base is not new to Betts, who played the position early in the minors with Boston, and he’s totaled 54 innings in eight games at the position, including six starts over the previous two seasons with the Dodgers.
With Betts out, the Dodgers scrambled to replace his offense. They traded for outfielder Trayce Thompson, called up Jake Lamb, and even tried infielder Eddy Alvarez for four starts in right field. Alvarez’s previous professional outfield experience consisted of only nine games in left field, seven of which came in Triple-A this season.
|2B||Cronenworth (L)||1B||Freeman (L)|
|1B||Hosmer (L)||2B||Muncy (L)|
Thompson has been the most effective of the group, with a home run and three doubles in his 29 plate appearances. The trio of Thompson, Alvarez, and Lamb have combined to hit .259/.281/.426 with 23 strikeouts and two walks in 57 plate appearances while Betts was sidelined.
Taylor also started five games in right field while Betts was out, and threw out Trent Grisham at home plate with a 96-mph throw in Friday’s game against San Diego.
What the Dodgers get back in Betts is a dynamic force atop the lineup who will almost certainly make his sixth All-Star team and will probably start in the outfield for the National League on July 19 at Dodger Stadium. Betts this season is hitting .273/.349/.535 with 17 home runs, a 147 wRC+ and 53 runs scored. He was leading the NL in runs scored at the time he got hurt, and even with the 2½ weeks missed, Betts still ranks in the top 10 in the league in runs and home runs.
Alvarez was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for Betts. Alvarez was 4-for-25 (.160) in 14 games with the Dodgers, including starts in right field, left field, and third base, plus two innings at shortstop in reserve.
This is the first time Alvarez has been optioned this season.