MIAMI — It has not been pretty.
Chris Taylor missed a month with a small fracture in his left foot after fouling a ball off it in early July. Since he returned in early August, he is 11 for 60 (.183) with strikeouts in almost half of those at-bats (27).
“I think he’s clearly searching,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “On our ballclub, I think he’s probably the most mechanical of all of them versus approach and all that stuff. So when it’s out of whack, it’s out of whack.”
And when it is out of whack, the strikeouts come in bunches. The same swing changes that rescued Taylor from life in the Mariners’ minor-league system and made him an important cog on the Dodgers’ roster has also produced 785 strikeouts in 714 games over the past six seasons — including a National League-leading 178 in 2018.
But those swing changes also made him a dangerous hitter with 87 home runs and a .450 slugging percentage as a Dodger after hitting 19 in five seasons in the Mariners’ farm system.
This year, though, Taylor is still searching for that swing. He has eight home runs and a .394 slugging percentage in 91 games while his contact rate and swing-and-miss rate are both the worst of his career.
“CT, with what he’s done, certainly deserves an extended leash. I have no problem saying that,” Roberts said. “But the strikeout rate, the swing-and-miss rate is alarming. I know he’s not trying to swing and miss, trying to strike out. But I think for me to feel confident to run him out there more consistently, it’s just got to get better. And I know he understands that too. He’s more frustrated than anyone is.”
The addition of Joey Gallo and the emergence of Trayce Thompson have made playing time harder to find in the outfield for Taylor. He started at second base with Gavin Lux nursing a neck issue and didn’t look comfortable at the position, making misplays in each game.
“I think right now it’s just trying to pick certain spots to divvy up playing time, to give guys opportunities,” Roberts said.
“(Taylor) is working through his mechanics. But some level of consistency is what I think we’re all shooting for. Obviously the quality of contact in years past balances out the swing-and-miss and the strikeouts. If you’re not getting that and the strikeout rate spikes, it’s just hard to stomach. So some level of consistent contact is what we’re all looking for.”
Relievers Blake Treinen and Tommy Kahnle each pitched a scoreless inning on their rehab assignments with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday. For Treinen, it was his sixth appearance. He has allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out six in five innings. It was Kahnle’s second appearance since returning to action.
Roberts said Treinen was scheduled to pitch again Sunday, his first time pitching on back-to-back days since suffering a shoulder injury in April. The plan is to add him to the Dodgers’ roster when they return home to face the Padres next week. His role pitching in leverage won’t change, Roberts said. But the team will be cautious about his usage.
“I don’t think there will be an up-down,” Roberts said, referring to closing out an inning and going back out to start the next inning. “I think we’ll be fine with the back-to-back but the up-down is what we’ll be very mindful of.”
Returning from elbow surgery in May, lefty Victor Gonzalez has made three scoreless appearances in the past week for OKC on his rehab assignment. After making two appearances in the Arizona Complex League, Danny Duffy moved his rehab assignment to Class-A Rancho Cucamonga and pitched a scoreless inning on Friday. Duffy had flexor tendon surgery last fall.
Roberts said the Dodgers will go with a six-man starting rotation for “a couple weeks at the bare minimum” after Clayton Kershaw returns this week.
Dodgers (RHP Tony Gonsolin, 16-1, 2.10 ERA) at Marlins (RHP Pablo Lopez, 8-8, 3.66 ERA), Monday, 3:40 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM