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James Outman makes mesmerizing MLB debut in Dodgers’ win over Rockies

Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers congratulates James Outman as he crosses home plate.
James Outman, right, is congratulated by Dodgers teammate Cody Bellinger after hitting a two-run home run in his first major league at-bat Sunday against the Colorado Rockies.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The Dodgers still have a couple of days to try to win the Juan Soto sweepstakes.

In the meantime, however, they are already benefitting from the addition of another left-handed hitting right fielder.

In a mesmerizing major league debut Sunday, rookie James Outman had three hits and three RBIs, including a home run in his very first at-bat, to help the Dodgers beat the Colorado Rockies 7-3 at Coors Field.

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The victory gave the Dodgers (68-33) a series win in Denver this weekend, and an MLB-best 21-5 mark in July — matching the most wins the club has ever had in the month and the fourth-highest July winning percentage (.808) by any major league team since 1900.

On Sunday, Outman left his own mark on team history.

Clayton Kershaw was rolling against the Colorado Rockies until a rough sixth inning led to a sudden exit and a 5-3 loss for the Dodgers.

The 25-year-old became the first Dodger with three or more hits in his MLB debut since Mike Piazza in 1992, the only player in the club’s Los Angeles history with three hits and three RBIs in his first career game, and the first debutant of any MLB team to have three hits, three RBIs and a home run since the Texas Rangers’ Joey Gallo in 2015.

As Outman stood in front of his locker afterward, a sheepish grin crossed his face when asked if he ever could have imagined so much from his first big league outing.

“Obviously, I dreamed of it, playing Wiffle Ball in the backyard and stuff like that,” he said.

But ...

“I never really thought that it was gonna be something that was gonna happen,” he said with a laugh, adding: “I’m still riding high, that’s for sure.”

Amid several weeks of trade rumors linking the Dodgers to potential pursuits of superstars such as Soto, Shohei Ohtani and others around the majors leading up to Tuesday’s trade deadline, Outman’s call-up this weekend came somewhat out of the blue.

A former seventh-round pick in 2018 ranked as the club’s No. 17 prospect by MLB Pipeline, the outfielder began this season in double A, seemingly behind several other young hitters in the organization’s talented farm system.

But after hitting 16 home runs with the club’s affiliate in Tulsa, he was promoted to triple-A Oklahoma City a month ago.

Dodgers outfielder James Outman hits a RBI double against the Colorado Rockies in the eighth inning Sunday.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

In 22 games there, the Redwood City native was only batting .225. Yet, when outfielder Zach McKinstry was dealt to the Chicago Cubs this weekend in exchange for reliever Chris Martin, Outman was called up as the only healthy outfielder left on the 40-man roster.

“He’s a guy that we’ve had in our camps the last couple years,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We were hoping he would perform enough to warrant an opportunity to come up this year.”

Outman got the news late Friday night and landed in Denver on Saturday afternoon, met there by eight family members, including his parents and fiancée.

When he talked with reporters for the first time Saturday, he credited his sudden rise to a “total rebuild” he made with his swing over the last three seasons.

“I came into pro ball swinging the bat kind of like a caveman — really stiff, not much there,” he said. “Tried to loosen it up, get some more length through the strike zone and it’s paid off.”

On Sunday, the new motion was on full display from the start.

During his first at-bat in the third inning, Outman unloaded on a center-cut sinker from Rockies starter Germán Márquez, sending a two-run home run into the right-field bullpens to become the eighth player in franchise history to go deep in his first career at-bat.

“To be honest, I don’t remember like 30 minutes after I hit that,” said Outman, who was mobbed by his teammates in the dugout — including getting splashed in the face with water by Justin Turner — while reliever Alex Vesia ecstatically retrieved the ball beyond the fence.

“I’m gonna put it up in my childhood room next to all my other baseball stuff,” Outman added, with the ball already sitting in a display case in the clubhouse. “I got like a shelf of all my Little League home runs and stuff like that. That might top them all.”

After striking out in the fourth inning — which Outman said actually calmed him down after his early adrenaline rush — he hit a leadoff single in the seventh and later came around to score on a Freddie Freeman double.

In the eighth, Outman lined an RBI double to right, helping the Dodgers pull away on a day Tony Gonsolin gave up three runs in five innings, Cody Bellinger hit a go-ahead two-run double in the fourth, and every member of the lineup reached base at least once.

“What a debut,” Roberts said. “Really fun to watch. You could just see his joy.”

It’s unclear how long Outman’s first MLB stint might last.

Turner (midsection discomfort) probably won’t play again until at least Thursday but still isn’t going on the injured list.

Chris Taylor (foot fracture) is scheduled to begin a rehabilitation assignment with Oklahoma City this week that will last at least seven days.

The Dodgers, of course, could also alter their roster via trade before Tuesday’s deadline, including the possibility of them acquiring another bat that could force Outman back to the minors.

If the Dodgers make a deal for Juan Soto, it would bolster a lineup that should win World Series championships down the line.

Roberts had yet to decide if the rookie would be back in the lineup for Monday’s series opener against the Giants in San Francisco — in a ballpark that, 30 minutes from Outman’s hometown, he often went to games at as a kid.

“I don’t think anyone could have imagined this,” Roberts said. “But we’ve got a lot of guys that come through our system that perform. James Outman is another one of them.”

As Outman reflected on his path to the big leagues postgame, the long-haired slugger made his approach at the plate sound simple.

“I’m not trying to force things, make things happen,” he said. “I’m usually just trying to hit the ball as hard as I can.”

He was then reminded of his caveman comment from the day before, answering one last question with another smile and laugh.

“Yeah,” he said. “No more caveman for me.”


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