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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says Max Muncy deserves an All-Star selection

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- MONDAY, JUNE 17, 2019: Dodgers Max Muncy points skyward in gratitude and cele
The Dodgers’ Max Muncy celebrates a home run against the Giants on June 17. He was batting .285 with 20 home runs and a .946 OPS entering Saturday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Max Muncy emerged from the visitors’ clubhouse at Coors Field and walked behind the media scrum surrounding Dave Roberts in the dugout Saturday, granting the Dodgers’ manager another opportunity to plug his slugger a day before Major League Baseball will announce the All-Star game reserves.

“He’s an All-Star,” Roberts said. “Any way you slice it.”

Roberts has been adamant about Muncy’s case for an All-Star selection in recent days. He believes he is an obvious pick. He points to his offensive prowess, defensive improvements and versatility. He lamented Muncy appearing on the All-Star ballot as a first baseman, a position at which the competition is stiffer, even though he has started more games at second base as of Saturday.

The numbers support Roberts’s case — at either position. Muncy’s 3.3 FanGraphs WAR ranks second in the National League among both first basemen and second basemen entering Saturday. He was batting .285 with 20 home runs and a .946 on-base-plus-slugging percentage — a stat line resembling the breakout season he enjoyed in 2018 — while dropping his strikeout rate from 27.2% to 22.2%.

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Muncy, 28, has managed to avoid a step back by adjusting to the league’s adjustments to him. Pitchers, he said, have thrown him more breaking pitches and do not deviate.

“When they find something that works, they’re not trying to set that up,” Muncy said. “They’re just throwing it over and over again. And it’s how it’s been this year.”

Defensively, Muncy has played more second base than the Dodgers projected. Enrique Hernandez was named the team’s second baseman in spring training, but he has struggled since a hot start, prompting the Dodgers to move Muncy to second more regularly. The Dodgers’ aggressive shifting limits the range they need from Muncy. The defensive metrics are mixed on Muncy’s performance, but Roberts insisted he has been a “plus defender” there.

“I put a lot of work this offseason with it,” Muncy said. “It was just something I knew I needed to improve on and sharpen up, and I feel like I’ve definitely done that.”

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The combination has assured Roberts that Muncy belongs in the All-Star game July 9 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Roberts, the NL manager, has no say in picking the reserves. For Muncy, it would the next step in a rapid ascension after he was released by the Oakland Athletics in 2017. He has become an essential cog for the team with the best record in baseball.

“It’s a goal, it’s a dream to be able to go there,” Muncy said. “And it’d definitely mean a lot for me considering my dad is from Cleveland. It would be a special moment.”

Muncy had a tough game in the Dodgers’ 5-3 loss Saturday night, committing an error at second base in the sixth inning and finishing 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.

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Bellinger likely to cameo at first base

Roberts said the plan is for Cody Bellinger to start at first base Sunday. It would be Bellinger’s first start there since injuring his right shoulder diving for a ball in his last start May 3.

Roberts added that Joc Pederson, tasked to learn how to play first base during the season, will return to first base Tuesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Back to five-man rotation

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The Dodgers will return to a five-man rotation until the All-Star break, beginning Tuesday when Ross Stripling starts after Monday’s off-day. Walker Buehler will pitch Wednesday, followed by Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw.

jorge.castillo@latimes.com

Twitter: @jorgecastillo


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