Cody Bellinger has three words for the rest of the National League.
He has three words for the pitching coaches watching video of the World Series, salivating at how easily the Houston Astros neutralized him, dreaming about pitching him exactly the same way and gobbling up key outs.
“Bring it on,” Bellinger said.
He has not watched replays of the World Series. He just turned off the world for a time and relaxed.
The World Series stained what otherwise was a remarkable rookie season for Bellinger.
He did not make the Dodgers’ opening-day roster, but he was their cleanup batter in the World Series. He set the NL rookie record for home runs, with 39. He was unanimously selected as the NL rookie of the year.
He set records in October too. He became the first player to strike out four times in two World Series games. He set a World Series record with 17 strikeouts, in 28 at-bats. He batted .143, with one home run.
If Bellinger had no idea how the Astros would pitch to him, and no idea how to react to it, that’s on the Dodgers’ scouting, analytics and coaching staffs. But no, Bellinger says, it’s on him.
“I already knew,” he said. “I knew what was coming and I still didn’t … hit.”
Good luck, he says, to any other team that pitches him as the Astros did and expects the same results.
“I don’t think that will ever happen again,” he said. “I was just kind of out of my own element. Whatever. They can try and do that and see if it works.”
Turner Ward, the Dodgers’ hitting coach, attributed the poor performance to a combination of Bellinger’s anxiety and the Astros’ success at tantalizing him with pitches perfectly located on the fringes of the strike zone, and then beyond the strike zone.
“You want to hit so bad, you start swinging at everything,” Ward said.
Bellinger remains the Dodgers’ cleanup batter. The lineup is much more powerful if Bellinger can reprise his regular-season performance and not his World Series performance, but third baseman Justin Turner said the Dodgers can win without Bellinger hitting 40 home runs.
“We don’t have to worry about that,” Turner said. “The lineup is so deep that no one should feel pressure to have to do anything out of character. When you see that pressure is where a guy comes in, has a big year, and the team wants to lean on him the next year, and then you start pressing, trying to fill that role.
“This lineup is not dependent on one person at all.”
Bellinger is 22. He has heard about veteran players that get to the World Series early in their careers, then say 10 years later that they wish they would have appreciated how hard it is to get there.
“I appreciated it, definitely,” he said. “I had Andre Ethier to my right, [Clayton] Kershaw across the locker room. They have had unbelievable careers, and that was their first time in a World Series.
“I was lucky enough to be a part of it in my first. Could be my last. Hopefully not, but you never know. I enjoyed it for sure.”
Wearing of the green
Steve Garvey, whose father once drove the Dodgers’ bus, delivered a pregame speech about the meaning and thrill of playing for the Dodgers.
“He captured the room,” manager Dave Roberts said, “and he nailed it.”
Garvey dressed in the Dodgers’ home white uniform, as the Dodgers traditionally did on St. Patrick’s Day when the team trained in Vero Beach, Fla. The Dodgers wore green caps there, and they wore green caps here Saturday, but it would be an understatement to say the green caps and blue jerseys did not look good together.
“It does clash a little bit, huh?” Roberts said. “But it makes a statement.”
Roberts did not say what that statement might be.