LOS ANGELES – Everybody wants to be the man at the top.
The Dodgers activated Mookie Betts from the Injured List before Sunday’s game. Betts’ return after missing 15 games with a cracked rib on his right side created a dilemma for the Dodgers.
Betts’ preference for batting leadoff has been expressed and acknowledged by the Dodgers. In his absence, though, Trea Turner had moved into the top spot in the lineup – his home for most of his career – and hit .338 (23 for 68) with 10 RBI and 11 runs scored in the 15 games Betts missed.
In his first game back Sunday, Betts was back in his preferred spot with Turner dropping to second and Freddie Freeman to third. It was Turner’s first game batting second this season and Freeman’s first time not batting second after 77 consecutive starts there with the Dodgers.
“I had a conversation with all three of those guys. I think they’ve earned that right to be a part of the conversation,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “They feel great about it. To be quite honest, that was what their preference was.”
The order might change but the roles don’t, Roberts said, and that’s why they landed on this order.
“I think the driver was looking at the players individually and how we can put it together,” he said. “Mookie and Trea, their DNA is to get on base and score runs. When you’ve got Freddie behind them, Will Smith, (Max) Muncy and Justin (Turner) – their DNA is to be able to drive runs in. I think it sets up and adds a lot of length to our lineup. Obviously with Gavin (Lux) towards the bottom, bleeding into the top, you essentially have three burners at a point in the game which I really like as well.”
Trea Turner has started 49 times as the No. 3 hitter behind Betts and Freeman and Roberts acknowledged the Dodgers could go back to that. “But I think that this construction – we’re going to give this a go for a while,” he said.
It worked well enough Sunday. Betts and Turner reached base four times each, Betts on a pair of doubles and two walks.
In the days before Betts’ return, Roberts indicated he might return either at DH or second base. Chris Taylor’s injury during Saturday’s game altered that plan and Betts was back in his usual spot in right field – though Roberts said he could still play some second base when Taylor returns from a foot contusion.
Betts’ fracture has not fully healed and Roberts said he will be playing with pain for some time.
“It’s one of those things where he wants to be out there and we just feel there’s nothing that can make it go south,” Roberts said.
“It was more of ‘You let us know when you feel you can play.’ There’s going to be some uncomfort and he knows that. That’s why he basically pushed up the timetable.”
The Dodgers and Austin Barnes reached agreement on a two-year contract extension. Barnes, 32, would have been eligible for free agency for the first time this winter.
Acquired from the Miami Marlins in December 2014, Barnes has spent parts of eight seasons with the Dodgers, primarily as a backup catcher. Considered an excellent pitch-framer, Barnes is well-regarded by Dodgers pitchers.
“They approached me a couple weeks ago. It just made sense,” Barnes said. “I wanted to be here. This is a great group of guys and I believe in what’s happening in this organization. So it’s great to be here for another two years.”
For the second time this week, Cody Bellinger was not in the Dodgers’ starting lineup against a left-handed pitcher — Taylor started in center field against Rockies lefty Kyle Freeland on Tuesday and Trayce Thompson started there against Padres left MacKenzie Gore on Sunday.
Roberts said Thompson’s performance since joining the Dodgers in Cincinnati has given him an option to rest Bellinger against some left-handers.
“We got Trayce to take at-bats against lefties and I trust him out in centerfield and he’s taken really good at-bats,” Roberts said.
Left-hander David Price returned from family emergency leave on Sunday. In order to clear roster spots to activate Price and Betts, the Dodgers optioned Eddy Alvarez to Triple-A Oklahoma City and designated right-hander Ian Gibaut for assignment. Gibaut was claimed on waivers from the Cleveland Guardians on Thursday and did not appear in a game with the Dodgers. …
Hanser Alberto received an injection for “pain relief” in his knee, Roberts said, and will only be available in an emergency for three days.
Rockies (LHP Kyle Freeland, 4-5, 4.31 ERA) at Dodgers (LHP Julio Urias, 6-6, 2.64 ERA), Monday, 6:10 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM