In retrospect, A.J. Pollock admits, maybe he was pressing. Maybe coming to a new team and seeing so many new faces and learning a new commute and a new city and a new routine was overwhelming. Maybe that elbow infection that knocked him out for more than 10 weeks wasn’t all terrible.
“Just being able to take a step back from everything, maybe this is a blessing that I got to take a step back and relax, calm down, and just get back after it,” Pollock said.
Pollock went 0 for 3 with a run scored, a hit by pitch, and a sacrifice fly in Wednesday-turned-Thursday’s 7-2 win over the Phillies and was hitless in his only at-bat Thursday. But he had homered in the previous three games, marking the first time in his career that he had homered in three consecutive games. In his first four games since coming off the injured list Friday, Pollock went eight for 18.
The 31-year-old center fielder also got off to a blistering start to begin the season before his production spiraled. He was batting .223 with a .617 on-base-plus-slugging percentage when he landed on the injured list April 30 with the latest fluke injury in a career saturated with fluke injuries. But the numbers didn’t bother him. He figured it was a matter of time before he would turn that around. But his defense irked him when he looked back.
“I don’t know what it was,” Pollock said. “Sometimes you get your jumps, your jumps are good. There’s a lot of things that factor into that. Explosive but loose. Maybe I was a little tight. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I just didn’t like it. I feel I’m in a pretty good spot with it now.”
Pollock felt that way even after two balls that could’ve been fielded better cost the Dodgers in the ninth inning Wednesday. He shrugged them off. The first was a fly ball to shallow center field that landed between him and second baseman Max Muncy. Pollock called off Muncy, incorrectly estimating how long he had to get to the ball. The next hitter, Bryce Harper, smashed a line drive to right-center that caught Pollock in-between hops. The ball bounced off him and to the wall as two runs scored to give Phillies the win.
“Honestly it was two kind of crazy plays, but i feel pretty good out there,” Pollock said. “I feel like my jumps are actually pretty good.”
Despite those early struggles, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts insisted Pollock would return as the team’s everyday center fielder even as Alex Verdugo shined in his absence.
“I really want to give A.J. that opportunity to get traction,” Roberts said.
Privately, Roberts was in constant communication with him. Pollock recalled Roberts sending “super encouraging” text messages when he went to the hospital for his infected elbow. He said they meant a lot as he watched the club proceed and build the best record in baseball without him.
Two and half months later, Pollock is back in center field, more comfortable with his surroundings.
“I definitely don’t like it, but I still get to do exactly what I want to do, which is come back to the ballpark the second half of the year with the team and make the playoffs and try to help this team win the World Series,” Pollock said. “So nothing really disappeared with me missing a couple of months. It’s tough, but you move on.”
The Dodgers recalled Caleb Ferguson from triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned right-hander Casey Sadler before Thursday’s game. Ferguson tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings in five appearances for Oklahoma City since his last stint with Los Angeles but hit and walked the two Phillies batters he faced Thursday. . . . Rich Hill played catch Thursday for the first time since going on the injured list with a flexor tendon strain last month. He made 25 throws from 45 feet and will continue playing catch at that distance for two weeks. . . . Roberts said Kenta Maeda could pitch an inning out of the bullpen Friday or Saturday after having rain cut his start to two innings Wednesday. . . . Catcher Will Smith, one of the Dodgers’ top prospects, exited Oklahoma City’s game Wednesday night game with a palm injury. Roberts said his departure was “precautionary.” Smith is batting .275 with 18 home runs and a .987 OPS for Oklahoma City this season. He hit .269 with a .999 OPS and three home runs in nine games in his first two stints with the Dodgers this season.