The Dodgers are struggling to find the right answer when it comes to young star Cody Bellinger. Do they send him back to the minors, or let him start his MLB career early?
Clearly ready for "The Show," Bellinger has a .345/.406/.655 slash line with two home runs, five RBIs and seven runs scored in eight games since getting called up late last month.
Heading into Wednesday's game against the Giants, Bellinger had multiple hits in four of his last five games, including a two-home run game against the Phillies on April 29.
Despite the early-season success, Bellinger may find himself back in the minor leagues very soon. Manager Dave Roberts said all along that Bellinger would be sent back down once Joc Pederson (groin) and Franklin Gutierrez (hamstring) return from the disabled list. But can they afford to lose one of their best hitters?
Roberts has backtracked his previous stance of automatically sending Bellinger back down, and now claims the team "has not made a final decision".
But the time for a decision has come. Gutierrez is already back, and Pederson will soon return to action, which hampers Bellinger's direct path to obvious playing time. Bellinger is starting in left field Wednesday night, but Pederson will reclaim that spot once he returns.
Bellinger, 21, could serve as the fourth outfielder and a platoon option with struggling first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who is battling nagging injuries and slugging just .267/.340/.322 though 28 games. It appears Gonzalez, 34, may no longer be dependable as an everyday starter.
Not only is Bellinger hot at the plate, he also adds versatility to Los Angeles' defense. At 6-4, Bellinger is a lanky presence that can cover ground in the outfield. He also has a good stretch at first base, and a quicker first step — at this stage in his career — than Gonzalez.
Roberts may be worried Bellinger won't be able to find consistent playing time once everyone returns, but it's worth questioning whether or not Bellinger is already better than some of those guys.
The Dodgers (15-13) desperately need to find reliable bats outside of Justin Turner and Corey Seager. Bellinger could be their man.