For however long the Dodgers play without Adrian Gonzalez — and neither he nor the team has any idea how long that might be — the outfield competition is on.
As of Friday, when Gonzalez went on the disabled list for the first time in his 14-year career, Cody Bellinger is the Dodgers' first baseman. However, if the kid keeps hitting and the sample size is no longer small by the time Gonzalez reclaims first base, the Dodgers could consider keeping Bellinger in their outfield for the rest of the season.
"If he keeps playing well, obviously there should be a spot in the lineup for him," Gonzalez said.
Bellinger kept playing well Friday night, with 836 feet worth of home runs, in his second two-homer game in seven days. In the first 10 games of his major league career, he is batting .342.
The Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres, 8-2, using six pitchers to combine on a four-hitter.
Kenta Maeda pitched five innings and struck out eight, including six in a row at one point. He got no decision, and the Dodgers went ahead in the seventh inning on a two-run double by Andrew Toles.
Toles, a leadoff batter, has 15 runs batted in, one more than Justin Turner.
Bellinger, so impressive in his first week and a half in the major leagues, was asked if he believes the best Dodgers lineup is one with him and Gonzalez in it.
"Yeah, I think so," Bellinger said. "A healthy Adrian Gonzalez is scary for opposing pitchers. He's been butter-and-eggs for how many years? He's a consistent at-bat, every time. Him and I in the lineup could be fun."
Gonzalez, a five-time All-Star, turns 35 next week. He had played 1,833 games, the most of any active player who had not been on the disabled list.
The Dodgers opened a roster spot to activate Joc Pederson by putting Gonzalez on the disabled list with what they called elbow soreness, although Gonzalez said he also has played through maladies in his forearm, triceps and back.
He got an injection in the elbow in spring training, rushing back to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, and he said competing has been "an uphill battle" ever since. He is batting .255 with no home runs and a.309 slugging percentage, among the bottom six in the National League.
"My whole body hasn't felt right since spring training," he said, "so it was time to take a step back so everything can get right."
Although he said he had played hurt all season, he and manager Dave Roberts each said the decision to go on the disabled list was left to Gonzalez. Roberts said he had maintained "ongoing conversations" with Gonzalez before the first baseman approached him Wednesday night and suggested he ought to go on the DL.
"Selfishly, he could have tried to keep going," Roberts said.
Gonzalez said he might have, if not for the presence of Bellinger. He said he did not care about any perception that the Dodgers might have wanted him to go on the DL sooner but he wanted to preserve his streak.
"If that was the case, I wouldn't be going on the DL today, because I can play," he said. "They didn't want to approach me, because they respect the fact that I've done this my whole career. I've played through injuries. The way I saw it, we've got Belly that can get in there and do things that I possibly cannot do today."
Gonzalez indicated he expected to spend more than the minimum 10 days on the disabled list.
"We're not looking at it as 10 days," he said. "We're looking at it as when my body is right, when I can go up there and take a swing without any pain, when I can play a whole nine and not feel stiff after the game and not come out of it in pain. It's whenever my body recovers."
Whenever that might be, the team's lineup might be best with him and Bellinger in it. However, even on a night when Bellinger starred again, Roberts declined to offer any such commitment.
"As far as his immediate future here, it's more of a day-to-day, week-to-week thing," Roberts said. "As we get guys coming back, we'll make those decisions."
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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