Dodgers Notes: Adrian Gonzalez returns with healthier back, limited role
DETROIT — Two months of rest and physical therapy allowed Adrian Gonzalez to roll back the odometer on his back. His role, however, is very much a part of the present.
“I feel great,” Gonzalez said after being activated from the 60-day disabled list on Friday. “Last year was when the whole issue started with the back. Right now, I feel like I’m before that, before it all started. So hopefully this is the end of the back issue. You never know. But as far as right now, I’ve played all these rehab games and haven’t felt anything so that is encouraging.”
Batting seventh for the first time since 2006, Gonzalez returned Friday with a double in his first major-league at-bat since June 11 and will play first base again Saturday before serving as the Dodgers’ DH on Sunday, according to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. After that, Gonzalez will have to earn his playing time or wait for Cody Bellinger to need time off at first base. Bellinger moved to left field Friday.
“This is a situation where his track record speaks for itself,” Roberts said. “But where we are at right now with our ballclub – production overrides everything. And that’s the way it should be when you’re trying to win a championship.”
Gonzalez has missed 67 games this season while on the DL twice due to a herniated disc in his back. That is more down time than he got in the previous 11 seasons, when he missed a total of 37 games. Adjusting to a limited role now will not be a problem, Gonzalez asserted.
“I’m part of the team. When the team needs me I’ll be there,” he said. “There’s no ‘Are you going to play one day then day off? Blah, blah, blah.’ Coming into this, I was able to play three full games in a row (on his rehab assignment). So as far as playing every day, I’m capable. But I’m also capable of coming off the bench.
“I just want to help the team win. They’ve created such a great run here that I just want to be a part of it. I don’t have any expectations. … I’ll play when I’m in there and when I’m not I’ll be ready to pinch-hit.”
The Dodgers made news in Japan this week – but not for having Yu Darvish and Kenta Maeda in their starting rotation.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and broadcaster Orel Hershiser were photographed watching Shohei Otani take batting practice before a game with the Nippon Ham Fighters. The photo of the latest and most public scouting trip by the Dodgers appeared prominently in Sports Nippon as well as other Japanese publications. The Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates have also scouted Otani recently, according to reports in Sports Nippon.
The 23-year-old Otani is a two-way sensation in Japan’s Pacific League, where he was voted the league’s best pitcher (10-4 with a 1.86 ERA) and best DH (22 home runs and a 1.004 OPS) while winning the MVP award last season. He didn’t participate in the World Baseball Classic this spring due to an ankle injury and has pitched only 1-1/3 innings this season due to a hamstring injury – but has a .905 OPS in 36 games as DH.
It is uncertain if Otani will make the jump to MLB this winter – or how teams will get around more restrictive bonus restrictions in the new collective bargaining agreement in order to sign him before he turns 25.
The Dodgers nearly signed Otani out of high school five years ago but he elected to sign with Nippon instead. Last fall when Mexico’s WBC team played exhibition games in Japan, Gonzalez gave Otani a signed jersey – “Looking forward to seeing you in the States” – and some Dodgers gear.
Left-hander Clayton Kershaw threw a 40-pitch bullpen session Friday afternoon, the latest step in his recovery from a lower back strain. Roberts said the workout looked like “a normal Clayton Kershaw side session.”
Kershaw is scheduled to throw another simulated game, this time three innings long, on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. If that goes well, the next step would be a rehab game with either Double-A Tulsa or Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Darvish did not travel to Detroit with the Dodgers on Thursday. He stayed back in Los Angeles to look for a new home. Roberts said Darvish was expected to travel to Detroit on Friday night.
Outfielder Andre Ethier moved his rehab assignment to Double-A Tulsa on Friday. Ethier was 2 for 8 with four strikeouts and a walk in three games with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. He is not expected to rejoin the Dodgers until rosters expand in September.
Rob Segedin was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for Gonzalez on the roster.
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