One of the reasons Alex Verdugo opened the season on the Dodgers roster was evident in the first inning Sunday at Dodger Stadium. Verdugo stood at the plate against Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Jhoulys Chacin. The bases were loaded with two out. It was a big spot for a team seeking to shed a six-game losing streak.
The Dodgers game plan, Verdugo later explained, was to wait out the veteran pitcher. Chacin, Verdugo said, wants to induce swings on pitches out of the strike zone. So Verdugo practiced patience. He took one strike on the outside corner before Chacin tried getting him to hack at three pitches further off the plate. Verdugo didn’t swing at any, bringing the count to 3 and 1. The next pitch, a 90-mph fastball, caught the outer half of the plate, and Verdugo cracked a groundball up the middle. Two runs scored and the Dodgers seized a lead they didn’t relinquish.
“To not get too big but to shoot the hole was a big hit,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Most highly regarded prospects don’t become established major leaguers as bench players. They’re held in the minors until an everyday role at the big league level becomes available or are used as trade bait to bolster another area.
The 22-year-old Verdugo is an exception, one created by the Dodgers’ outfield depth and the success he enjoyed at triple A. After he batted .321 with an .842 on-base-plus-slugging percentage for Oklahoma City the last two seasons, the Dodgers decided Verdugo had nothing left to prove and broke spring-training camp with him on their opening-day roster.
In 16 games, Verdugo is batting .343 with a 1.057 OPS in 35 plate appearances. He has tripled and doubled twice. His home run to lead off the fifth inning Sunday against Chase Anderson was his third. It was his sixth start, all in right field, and he capitalized again when given the chance.
“You go out there, you try to play as hard as you can and give it all you can and just leave it out on the field,” Verdugo said. “Because, for me, getting very limited playing time, it’s just one of those things, when I get out there, just take full advantage of it and just try to leave a mark out there.”
Rich Hill to make a rehab start
Left-hander Rich Hill will make a rehab start Wednesday for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga or Oklahoma City, Roberts said. Hill, 39, began the season on the 10-day injured list because of a sprained knee ligament.
Roberts said where Hill pitches will depend on logistics. Hill is slated to go four innings or 60 pitches. He completed a three-inning, 46-pitch simulated game Friday at Dodger Stadium without pain in the knee or discomfort from the brace he’ll wear.