ALBUQUERQUE – It wasn’t quite the buzz of a Kirk Gibson plaque appearance at the old sports stadium or a Darryl Strawberry outfield start in the Albuquerque Dukes’ mustard red and yellow, and it wasn’t Certainly was not the circus of a post of Manny Ramirez -steroids suspended in an isotopic uniform.
What Cody Bellinger’s rehab appearance on Friday night was, however, was a welcome gift for a private state of professional baseball since late summer 2019.
The National League’s most valuable player that year with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bellinger was one of Major League Baseball’s brightest stars. In the offseason, he signed a $ 16.1 million contract to keep him at the heart of the roster of the defending World Series champions.
The Dodgers had targeted Bellinger’s return to action this weekend after his fall in early April with a capillary fracture to his left fibula. The team officially listed it as a “left calf contusion.”
He had appeared in just four games with the big club before starting an extended health regimen at the Dodgers off-season training site.
Mid-week, the Dodgers announced they were sending the former NL Rookie of the Year to their Triple-A branch in Oklahoma City for a few games. The OKC Dodgers arrived in Albuquerque Thursday for the start of a six-game series against the Isotopes at Rio Grande Credit Union Field.
Bellinger and his compatriot Zach McKinstry were to make short rehab trips with OKC. The hope is to reunite the two with the big club within a few days. Everyone was in the starting lineup on Friday night; Bellinger hit No. 2 and played to the center, McKinstry hit third and started on the left.
“I think they’re both ready to go, I think they’re both bored with rehab, they want to go out and play,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said.
With the game only a few minutes old, Bellinger discovered what was the type of greeting usually reserved for fan favorites in the home dugout. It only took two shots for him to throw a fastball deep into the early evening sky.
Moving away towards the right-field fouling post, the imposing flying ball finally settled into the glove of Topes right-hander Sam Hilliard about an arm’s length from the padded wall. Bellinger lined up a ball to the right on his next at bat, then came out shallow to the left on his third appearance at home plate.
Fans finally got what they were looking for in his batting final in the sixth inning when he fielded an RBI single to the right, part of the 13-3 rout from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City in front of 4,641 fans, many of whom wore Dodgers jerseys and hats, some wearing Bellinger’s familiar No.35.
With Minor League Baseball’s strict protocols for COVID-19 practices, none of the players were made available to the media before or after the game. Bellinger signed a few autographs for fans pushing things through the net ahead of the game.
His night ended quite quietly in the sixth. With much of the crowd distracted by a promotion between the sleeves of a T-shirt, Bellinger gathered his gear and headed out of the Oklahoma City dugout and back to the team’s locker room under the lobby of the first base. Just before disappearing from sight, he hit a high five for a fan in a Dodgers road jersey.
Bellinger is expected to be with OKC throughout the weekend, as Roberts said Friday there was no schedule for his return to Los Angeles.
“We’re just going to see how it goes,” Roberts reiterated. “Take bats, see how they recover from being on their feet, and then we’re going to kind of read and react then.”