It’s the first day of the All-Star break. Minus the eight players in tonight’s home run derby, everyone in the majors has at least a little time to relax.
Even in the minor leagues, most players have a few days off.
Just not Hector Olivera.
The Cuban prospect, whom the Dodgers signed last year for $62.5 million, was hitting .387 at triple-A Oklahoma City when he strained his hamstring June 23. Since then he has been rehabbing in Arizona and got back on the field with the Dodgers’ Arizona League team on July 7.
In five rehab games, he has gone 5 for 14 at the plate and seen time at second base, third base and designated hitter. And during the All-Star break, he will continue to train and play in two Arizona League games, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said Sunday.
“The main thing with him is getting back and playing. Once our guys think he’s ready to play, he’ll go,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly also said Olivera is likely to return to triple-A after the break. Andrew Freidman, Dodgers president of baseball operations, has said he expects Olivera to make it to the majors this year, but at the moment, Los Angeles doesn’t have any gaping holes for Olivera to fill. Howie Kendrick and Justin Turner, playing second and third, respectively, have the two highest batting averages in the club.
Still, Mattingly said Sunday, once Olivera is completely healthy, it would be unlikely that he would stay in the minors for long.
“When we signed him, we didn’t think he was a triple-A guy. We signed him thinking he was a big league guy. He just has to be ready to play,” Mattingly said. “He has a chance to be part of what we’re doing for sure.”
If the Dodgers continue to swing the bats the way they have for the last two months, they may bring Olivera up sooner rather than later. With Sunday’s win, L.A. is 29-28 since May 13, and over that period, the Dodgers have averaged just 3.6 runs per game after averaging 5.3 to start the year.
Mattingly, however, cautioned against comparing Olivera to the other star Cuban prospect to come along in the last few years.
“I don’t know if Olivera is the same as [Yasiel] Puig, from the standpoint of Puig just kind of built the energy. He had a great spring, came up, he made a catch and a play on the first day, got hits all over the place, just erupted that way.... Hector sounds like he’s pretty solid as far what he does, day in and day out. The guy can really play.
“I think he gives us another answer or potential guy who can do some things offensively.”
As for the idea that Olivera might make an impact with his flair, Mattingly said he only expects him to light a spark with his performance, not his personality.