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Dodgers Dugout: Renewed sense of safety as teams are hit by the coronavirus

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - AUGUST 02: Mookie Betts #50 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates with Justin Turner.
Justin Turner greets Mookie Betts after a home run.
(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and what happened to all those fans who were so unhappy after the team started 2-2?

It began with the Miami Marlins, as 18 players, and 21 members of the organization overall, tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The team had finished playing Philadelphia when multiple tests came back positive, pausing their season.

Then, the Phillies had three non-playing members of the organization test positive. Then, multiple players and staff members of the St. Louis Cardinals tested positive.

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In short, the baseball season is in danger of going off the rails entirely.

Watching the Dodgers on TV this season led to a lot of concern among many Dodgers fans on social media. Some players were wearing masks in the dugout, some weren’t. There were high fives or similar celebrations galore. It didn’t appear everyone on the team was 100% committed to the safety procedures.

But once the positive tests spread beyond one team, things began to change. Dodgers broadcaster Alanna Rizzo tweeted out the following renewed safety protocols, which she said she received from Justin Turner:

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—All players will wear face coverings in the dugout

—Any players not in the lineup or game will not be in the dugout during game

—Pitching coaches will not be in dugout when team is on offense

—Hitting coaches will not be in the dugout when team is on defense

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—Readdressed high fives and handshakes

—Stressed 6 feet of distancing and face coverings in the bullpens where guys may have to sit in the stands to ensure space

—Also stressed avoiding public appearances for marketing purposes

—Thanks for everything you guys do on making us all look good!!! Have a great night!!!

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And, since then, you have seen the Dodgers take things much more seriously on the field. It sends the right message to everyone watching and hopefully, if other teams do the same, will stop this in its tracks and prevent the season from being canceled.

What’s wrong with Cody?

It’s not often that you win an MVP award and then decide to tinker with your swing in the offseason, but that’s just what Cody Bellinger did. The result was an atrocious start to the season that saw him on the bench Saturday after starting the season five for 36 with one extra-base hit.

Manager Dave Roberts is not concerned, saying on video-conference with reporters that “The contact rate is still good. The angle trajectory is not where we want it to be, he’s not [striking] out. I don’t think he looks comfortable. He’s still trying to figure some things out. There are some calls that could go either way that could flip counts, he’s on the wrong side of those. This is the way it goes sometimes. It’s one of those things that’s just more magnified now. He’ll work through it. Hopefully, today he eases his mind, but also get some work in.”

And on Sunday, Bellinger homered in his first at-bat.

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Slumps at the beginning of a season can be misleading. Every player has slumps, but when they happen at the start of a season, they stand out more. If a player is hitting .310 and goes five for 36 in the middle of the season, very few people bat an eye. Do it at the start of a season, and everyone gets concerned.

So, let the season play out for a couple more weeks before we call on the Dodgers to release Bellinger.

Some good news

It’s so easy to boo a guy after he goes 0 for four and strikes out with the bases loaded and the game on the line. It’s so easy to forget that they have things they are dealing with at home, just like the average fan.

A.J. Pollock‘s daughter was born three months premature. Last weekend, his daughter, Maddi, was discharged from the hospital after 128 days.

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“She’s been staring at the ceiling of a hospital for four months, so just seeing the ceiling in our house was overwhelming for her,” Pollock said. “It was great. It was awesome.”

Roberts: “I don’t know how he’s been able to compartmentalize what’s going on in his life. To come back and not miss a beat, it’s remarkable.”

And a special shout out to Pollock’s wife, Kate, who deals with it all and doesn’t get to receive the adulation you get for being an athlete.

Your first Dodgers memory

I have thousands of responses, so if I don’t get to yours right away, don’t worry, I will eventually. If you haven’t already, I’d still love for you to send me your first Dodgers memory, and it may run in an upcoming Dodgers Dugout. Include your name. And don’t send only a sentence, tell why that memory sticks out in your mind. You can email me your memory at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. And remember, it’s first Dodgers memory, not favorite Dodgers memory. Thanks.

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Betsy Wells of Arlington Heights, Ill.: In 1953 I lived in Boston. The Dodgers were in the World Series that year, and Vin Scully called the games on national TV. My mother was a baseball fan, and the World Series was loud and clear at our house for every game. During the series I was with a group of friends going to the beach on the Massachusetts south shore, when we passed through Scollay Square subway station. Over a loudspeaker in the station I heard Vin’s voice broadcasting the game, just like at home. I thought it was fun to hear Scully in Scollay Square. I moved to L.A. about the time the Dodgers did, and my mother and I were instant fans from then on. Just hearing Vin’s voice made the Dodgers feel like family.

I am still a diehard fan, even though I have lived in Illinois for the last five years.

Asher Garber: Growing up, I was a latch-key kid, which meant I got to watch the TV when I got home from school because my mom wasn’t around the house to tell me not to. And the first time I saw an intro to a Dodgers game got me permanently hooked. The montage closed with the Dodgers in Three Rivers Stadium. Dave Parker is rounding third and heading home, and he bowls over Steve Yeager who was knocked so hard he backflipped twice. Then with his eyeglasses broken, he casually tosses the ball to the umpire.

These names look familiar

What players on the 2019 Dodgers are doing this season with other teams (through Saturday’s games):

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Travis d’Arnaud, Atlanta, .571/.556/.857, 284 OPS+

Yimi Garcia, Miami, 0-0, 0.00 ERA

Jedd Gyorko, Milwaukee, .250/.333/.375, 100 OPS+

Rich Hill, Minnesota, 1-0, 0.00 ERA

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Kenta Maeda. Minnesota, 2-0, 1.64 ERA

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Toronto, 0-1, 8.00 ERA

Casey Sadler, Chicago Cubs, 0-0, 6.75 ERA

Alex Verdugo, Boston, .231/.286/.231, 46 OPS+

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Up next

Monday, Dodgers (Walker Buehler) at San Diego (Chris Paddack), 6 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

Tuesday, Dodgers (Dustin May) at San Diego (Dinelson Lamet), 6 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

Wednesday, Dodgers (Ross Stripling) at San Diego (Garrett Richards), 6 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

And finally

Mookie Betts shows off his arm. Watch it here.

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Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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