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Dodgers to return Cody Bellinger to first base, move Adrian Gonzalez to bench

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Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger laughs in the dugout before a game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 25.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

When the Dodgers opened the regular season, Adrian Gonzalez was the cleanup batter. When they open the postseason, Gonzalez probably will not be in the lineup at all.

Cody Bellinger will reclaim his spot at first base when the Dodgers activate him from the disabled list Wednesday, Manager Dave Roberts said after Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

That the Dodgers need their rookie slugger in the lineup is unquestionable. They are 78-23 when Bellinger plays, 13-15 when he does not.

However, the Dodgers were hopeful that Gonzalez would be able to hit with authority when he returned after spending two months on the disabled list strengthening his back. That would have enabled them to strengthen their lineup by playing Bellinger in left field and Gonzalez at first base, at least against right-handed pitchers.

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But Gonzalez has hit .184 in 38 at-bats since his return, with an on-base percentage of .220 and a slugging percentage of .316. He also left Sunday’s game with what Roberts said was “a little tightness” in his back. He is trying to manage a herniated disc.

Roberts said Gonzalez would have a role upon Bellinger’s return, at first because the Dodgers want to ease Bellinger back into competition.

“Adrian will be in the mix,” Roberts said.

But last week’s trade for Curtis Granderson appeared to solidify an outfield – against right-handers – of Granderson in left field, Chris Taylor in center, and Yasiel Puig in right.

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The Dodgers are expected to use Enrique Hernandez in the outfield against left-handers. They could also consider Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson, Rob Segedin and Alex Verdugo as outfield options in September; all four currently are playing at triple-A Oklahoma City.

The Dodgers figure to audition the 35-year-old Gonzalez as a left-handed pinch-hitter in September, but the five-time All-Star has just 42 career pinch-hit apperances, with a .238 batting average. The Dodgers also prize versatility off the bench; Gonzalez only plays first base.

Gonzalez was unavailable for comment after Sunday’s game. He previously told Times columnist Dylan Hernandez that he expected Roberts would use him as a pinch-hitter in October if he did not start.

“He can use me in that pinch-hit situation that game, in that big moment,” Gonzalez said, “because he trusts that I’m going to give him that quality at-bat.”

Bellinger ranks second in the National League with 34 home runs. He said Sunday that Gonzalez has gone out of his way to offer suggestions about how to attack pitchers and remind Bellinger of defensive signs for shifts and pickoff plays.

“I think everyone in the locker room would tell you he is one of the better teammates,” Bellinger said. “He has been completely helpful to me.”

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin


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