Days off mean more to banged-up Mookie Betts than playing in All-Star game

Dodgers center fielder Mookie Betts talks with Albert Pujols during batting practice.
Dodgers center fielder Mookie Betts says he was surprised that his peers picked him to play in the MLB All-Star game.
(Nick Wass / Associated Press)

Mookie Betts refuses to blame a series of nagging injuries for what he calls a “bad” first half, one in which the Dodgers outfielder hit .245 with a .799 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 11 homers and 33 RBIs entering Saturday night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Manager Dave Roberts has a different perspective on the shoulder, forearm and back ailments that Betts has played through without going on the injured list.

“He’s always gonna downplay the physical toll this year has taken on him, which I appreciate,” Roberts said. “But I sort of know what’s going on under the hood.”


Neither Roberts nor Betts would elaborate on the severity of those injuries, but it was enough to prompt Betts to bow out of Tuesday night’s All-Star game on the same day teammates Justin Turner and Walker Buehler were added to the National League roster.

“Just some nagging things that I think a little time off will definitely help,” Betts said before Saturday’s game. “There’s just no break in baseball, so this is the only time I can get a break for more than a day, and I wanted to use it as best I can.

The Dodgers’ Walker Buehler and Justin Turner have been added to the NL roster for All-Star game, while Mookie Betts will sit out because of an injury.

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“I would love to be in the All-Star game, but we all know the goal is to win the World Series, and this break will definitely help me, help us, get to that point.”

Betts, a five-time All-Star and the 2018 American League most valuable player with the Boston Red Sox, said last Tuesday that he was surprised to be chosen by his peers as an NL reserve.

Would his decision to opt out have been different if he hadn’t been to multiple All-Star games?

“Maybe, but probably not,” Betts said. “An All-Star game is definitely an honor, especially being voted in by your peers, so I definitely don’t want to discount that. But I do understand I have some nagging things that I would like to heal up. This decision is really about myself and the Dodgers.”


Roberts can understand why some fans might view Betts’ decision as selfish. The manager thinks Betts is being unselfish.

“I’m happy he was honest with himself and wanted to take care of himself, which in turn takes care of the Dodgers,” Roberts said. “It’s not an easy decision because he’s one of the faces of baseball and you feel like you’re letting the fans down.”

Turner, 36, was thrilled to be added to the NL team, his second All-Star selection. A utility player during his first five seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets, Turner emerged as a middle-of-the-order force after signing with the Dodgers before 2014. He made his first All-Star team in 2017, at age 32.

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“I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to go to an All-Star game for anything,” said Turner, who entered Saturday with a .302 average, .881 OPS, 14 homers and 45 RBIs in 82 games.

“The pride thing is huge. Being able to represent the National League, the Dodgers, as an All-Star is amazing, honestly. You look at the history of this organization, all the great players who have come through, to be able to wear a Dodgers uniform and participate in the All-Star game is pretty special.”

Buehler, 26, had an 8-1 record and 2.49 ERA in 17 starts, with 107 strikeouts and 24 walks in 108 1/3 innings, entering Saturday night’s game. This will mark his second All-Star nod. He and Turner will join first baseman Max Muncy and utility man Chris Taylor on the NL team.

Buehler has a 3-1 record and 2.35 ERA in 11 career postseason starts, with 83 strikeouts and 22 walks in 61 1/3 innings. He won his World Series start against Tampa Bay last October and threw six shutout innings in a must-win Game 6 of the NL Championship Series against Atlanta. He beat Colorado in a one-game playoff to determine the NL West champion in 2018.

“Walker has always been a big-game pitcher, right? We’ve seen it year in and year out in the postseason and Game 163, him stepping up, taking the ball and getting big outs for us,” Turner said. “But I think where I’ve seen him grow the most is in the not-big game, taking the ball and competing and being efficient and getting deeper into games.

“That’s something he’s taken a lot of pride in and really worked hard on, and I think you see that this year. You see him pitching deep into games every time he takes the ball.”