The plan followed logic and the plan felt sound. On Friday afternoon, according to the plan, the Dodgers would recall outfielder Joc Pederson from the disabled list. As a corresponding move, the team would send top prospect Cody Bellinger back to the minors. The team would thank him for his efforts, wish him well and prepare to welcome him back later in the season.
That was the plan.
Steinbeck understood how those unravel, and so do baseball teams. The concept of stashing Bellinger in the minors looked curious when he hit two home runs Saturday. It sounded odd when he provided two hits Monday. And it reached the point of absurdity a few minutes past 8 p.m. Tuesday, in the second inning of the Dodgers’ 13-5 victory over San Francisco, when Bellinger hit a three-run triple into the left-field corner of Dodger Stadium.
It was the first of his career, and the crucial blow in a six-run rally that erased a four-run deficit. Two innings later, Bellinger hit a leadoff single to spark a four-run flood. About 10 minutes after the game, manager Dave Roberts conceded that the plan might not be the plan, after all.
“There was nothing set in stone,” Roberts said. “Obviously, things can change. Anyone who has followed our club over the last year and half can see that things change daily. Or hourly.”
On a night when the offense roared, Bellinger helped Alex Wood (2-0) survive a rocky five-inning outing and aided the offense in flattening starter Matt Moore. The long season will test Bellinger’s ability to sustain performance in the major leagues. But at this moment, as the Dodgers seesaw toward summer, his presence in the lineup here appears close to vital. Bellinger has injected life into a club that struggled to gain traction on offense. And his confidence is well-earned.
“Yeah,” a sheepish Bellinger said after the game, “I think I belong.”
The argument for sending Bellinger back to triple-A Oklahoma City derived from the organization’s interest in furthering his development. Bellinger will not turn 22 for another two months. Before he arrived in the majors, he had played in only 21 games above double A. The Dodgers do not want him to languish on the bench.
No decision would be made Tuesday. Instead, the Dodgers savored the contributions of the youngest position player on their roster.
“He’s just so athletic and dynamic,” Roberts said. “He does a lot of things that help you win baseball games.”
In the afternoon, the team brought outfielder Franklin Gutierrez back from the DL. Gutierrez sat out 20 days because of a strained hamstring. To make room on the roster for Gutierrez, the team optioned Scott Van Slyke to Oklahoma City. Van Slyke was hitting .129.
By the time Gutierrez came to the plate, in the second inning, Dodgers trailed by four runs. The Giants peppered Wood with well-placed hits to notch four runs in the top of the inning.
“They hit a a couple balls in the right spots,” Wood said.
Gutierrez crushed a fastball for a solo home run, his first as a Dodger. The rally was only beginning.
The first six Dodgers all reached against Moore. Chris Taylor walked. Yasiel Puig singled. A walk by Austin Barnes loaded the bases for Bellinger.
A week ago, Moore struck out Bellinger three times. Bellinger felt prepared for the rematch. He passed on a fastball inside and a changeup away. When Moore stuffed a fastball near his fists, Bellinger pulled it down the right-field line. The crowd erupted even as the drive went foul.
When Moore threw a fastball away, Bellinger did not try to pull. He stroked the ball into the left-field corner and cleared the bases.
“I was just trying to put the barrel on it,” Bellinger said.
Wood reclaimed the lead on his own. He flared a single to bring Bellinger home. After Corey Seager doubled, a sacrifice fly by Justin Turner finished the six-run splurge.
Bellinger blended into the handshake line after the final out. His place on the roster may still be tenuous. But the plan to ship him out may soon change.
“Cody’s done everything he can to show that he warrants a continued opportunity,” Roberts said. “You tip your hat to him, and the way he plays the game.”