The sounds of baseball finally returned to Cody Bellinger’s ears Monday afternoon.
As he hammered baseballs inside a practice field batting cage at the Dodgers’ spring training complex, all the outside noise — about the Houston Astros and Carlos Correa, Rob Manfred and the 2017 World Series — died away.
Instead, the reigning National League MVP heard only the crack of his brown bat and the high-pitched squeals of children calling his name in search of an autograph.
“The only thing on my mind is spring training, and that’s it,” Bellinger said earlier in the morning, doing his best to move past the story that has dominated headlines during spring training. “It’s 2020 right now. Ready to go to war with what we’ve got in this locker room. I’m really excited for this year.”
Three days earlier, Bellinger arrived at Camelback Ranch ready to vent. Having missed the team’s FanFest event last month, the outfielder had yet to speak about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Thus, in his first media scrum of the spring Friday, he didn’t hold back, criticizing the Astros’ seemingly half-hearted apologies and MLB’s lack of punishment against their players before speculating that their cheating continued beyond the 2017 season.
“I mean these guys were cheating for three years,” he claimed.
Those comments sparked a response from Houston’s clubhouse. On Saturday, Correa clapped back at Bellinger in an interview with MLB Network. Correa pointed out that the league’s investigation didn’t uncover any illicit sign-stealing after the 2017 season, then took a shot directly at Bellinger:
“When he talks about that we cheated for three years,” Correa said, “he either doesn’t know how to read, is really bad at reading comprehension or is just not informed at all.”
However, the back-and-forth stopped there. Rather than escalating the feud during a chat with reporters Monday, Bellinger simply tried to look ahead:
“I said what was on my mind. That’s how I feel. I don’t regret anything that was said,” Bellinger said, later adding: “I didn’t take any offense to [Correa’s comments]. I have no reaction to it. It doesn’t change what I thought at all.”
On the day when Dodgers position players were scheduled to report to camp, Bellinger talked of the upcoming season and the team’s new-look roster, which will likely will see him star alongside newly acquired teammate Mookie Betts (the 2018 American League MVP) in the outfield.
“I’m really excited about this team,” Bellinger said. “We made some great improvements this year and I think everyone is excited to get it going.”
Not all of Bellinger’s teammates were quite as ready to move on. Minutes after Bellinger finished talking with the media Monday morning, third baseman Justin Turner shared his frustrations toward Manfred, the MLB commissioner who on Sunday described the World Series trophy as a “piece of metal” and defended the league’s handling of the Astros’ sign-stealing controversy.
When manager Dave Roberts was asked what it will take for all of his players to “settle down,” the diplomatic skipper said: “Time.”
In Bellinger’s case, it appears enough has passed.
“It’s all about 2020,” Bellinger said.
Before heading outside to resume his preseason work, Bellinger was given more opportunities to stir the pot.
But, having not actually seen Manfred’s full remarks, he declined to comment on the commissioner, saying only that the World Series trophy “means you’ve completed something that you’ve set out to do your whole life.”
Then, when asked once more about his desired punishment for the Astros, he stayed above the fray.
“There’s nothing else I need to say,” Bellinger reiterated. “It’s a whole new year. I said what I wanted to say. I don’t have any regrets to what I said. I’m ready to get this year going right now.”