Gavin Lux shows patience, and progress, during Dodgers’ series against Rockies
The at-bat didn’t win the game for the Dodgers on Sunday night. Ultimately, Corey Seager, maybe the hottest hitter in the majors, grounded out to end it and send the Dodgers’ first series loss of 2020. But Gavin Lux’s 10-pitch plate appearance to bring Seager to the plate in the ninth inning signified progress for the organization’s top prospect.
The rookie second baseman was 0 for 4, dropping his batting average to .148 in eight games, when he stepped to the plate to face Colorado Rockies closer Daniel Bard with two outs and a runner at first base. Bard started the encounter with a 99-mph fastball over the outside corner. Lux then fouled off a 90-mph changeup. Eight pitches later, after four more foul balls, Lux took his base for a hard-fought walk.
“There were a lot of good things in that game tonight,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “and Gavin’s last at-bat was one of the highlights.”
Expectations were high when Lux made his major-league debut last September. He rocketed through the double-A and triple-A levels in the minors, pummeling pitching to become one of the consensus top prospects in baseball. Then he made the postseason roster and homered in his first playoff plate appearance.
But the Dodgers didn’t plan on carrying Lux on their opening-day roster out of spring training before the pandemic forced the league to cease operations. Four months later, Lux reported late to training camp for a reason he declined to share, further hurting his chances of starting the season on the roster.
Instead, he spent the season’s first month at the Dodgers’ alternate training site at USC. Dodgers officials maintained they weren’t limiting his service time to keep him under team control an extra year. They said Lux’s swing, complicated with several moving parts, just wasn’t in sync.
After a delayed start to his season, Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux is finally finding his bearings.
“I was colliding into the ball a little bit,” Lux, 22, said last week. “So we were just trying to focus on almost thinking about ‘staying back.’ It’s an old-school term but that’s the thought that’s helped me a lot.”
Lux finally made his season debut as the 29th man for the second game of a doubleheader Aug. 27 against the San Francisco Giants. He was optioned after the game and recalled two days later. He began 0 for 8 and 2 for 17 with seven strikeouts before hits in consecutive games for the first time Friday and Saturday.
“Coming up last year, I had 100-something games under my belt of full nine-inning games,” Lux said. “At the USC site, it still depends on who’s throwing that day and how many innings guys got. Obviously, you’re doing the best you can to make it as realistic as possible, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it compares to a full nine innings of actual baseball where results matter, winning matters, everything matters more.”
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The Dodgers are determined to give Lux a runway to improve in the regular season’s final weeks. He will be their starting second baseman against right-handed pitchers. They can reassess in October. Their other options at second base include Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernández.
“We know Gavin is a heck of a ballplayer,” Roberts said before Sunday’s game. “It’s just more of getting him up there, getting him some at-bats, just letting him relax and be himself.”
So with Mookie Betts and Joc Pederson out Sunday, Roberts moved Lux to the leadoff spot against Rockies right-hander Ryan Castellani. Lux struggled again until the ninth inning, when he confronted a challenge in a big spot and didn’t wilt.
The Dodgers lost their first series of the season, but they’re still five games better than the second-best team in the National League. They can afford to play the long game and Lux’s at-bat against Bard was a step in the right direction.
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