Cubs hope former Dodger Cody Bellinger can produce proper numbers

The subsequent chapter in Cody Bellinger’s skilled baseball profession started Saturday with a mistake as he walked to the plate for his first at-bat as a member of the Chicago Cubs.

“Number 35,” the general public tackle announcer bellowed at Sloan Park, “Cody Bellinger!”

The downside: Bellinger isn’t No. 35 anymore. That was his quantity with the Dodgers. Those days are over. He’s No. 24 now. The blue is a bit of totally different. There’s a bit of extra purple. He’s taking part in for a staff with out World Series expectations for the primary time in his profession, however the strain to recapture his All-Star type stays.

Bellinger’s time with the Dodgers abruptly ended earlier than anybody may have anticipated within the not-so-distant previous. He was non-tendered in November with one yr of membership management remaining. His drop-off over the earlier three seasons was steep, however the transfer was nonetheless jarring. The wound evidently hasn’t healed.

For 4 days, Bellinger didn’t seem within the clubhouse when it was open for the media after being knowledgeable of an interview request from a Los Angeles reporter. On the third day, he took the good distance off a backfield to keep away from the reporter and a Los Angeles tv crew.

He formally declined to talk via a Cubs spokesperson on the fourth day, Saturday, after going 0 for 2 with a strikeout in his Cubs spring coaching debut. Bellinger didn’t make the journey to Camelback Ranch on Sunday for the sport towards the Dodgers.

“The truth of it is until he was non-tendered, I really did not really have a lot of conversations with the Dodgers because I felt it was rather a matter of fact that he would continue with them because they had rights over him,” Scott Boras, Bellinger’s agent, mentioned final week. “I had no idea that they would non-tender him.”

Former Dodgers heart discipline Cody Bellinger can be patrolling the outfield at Wrigley Field for the Chicago Cubs this season.

(Morry Gash / Associated Press)

Boras had good motive. Bellinger, 27, batted .203 with a .648 on-base-plus-slugging proportion during the last three seasons, however he was named National League MVP the yr earlier than. He’s a former rookie of the yr and a two-time All-Star. He has a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in his trophy case. He turned a fan favourite in Los Angeles over six seasons, serving to them attain the postseason yearly and win a World Series title in 2020.

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But the Dodgers decided paying Bellinger $18 million, the wage projected by way of arbitration, was an excessive amount of. They determined releasing the middle fielder with the hopes of re-signing him for less expensive was higher than paying that value.

Boras mentioned he met with Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, in the course of the winter conferences the primary week of December. Friedman defined not tendering Bellinger a contract was an “economic decision” they usually have been open to re-signing him at a lower cost.

Boras mentioned 11 groups contacted him relating to Bellinger the day he was let go. Bellinger finally agreed on a one-year contract price $17.5 million assured with the Cubs in the course of the winter conferences.

“We felt like there was a lot of upside there,” Cubs normal supervisor Carter Hawkins mentioned. “When you see someone that actually played at that level before, it’s a lot easier to project that he could get back to it than someone who never has.”

The Dodgers will enter the 2023 season with uncertainty in heart discipline after dropping out on free agent Kevin Kiemaier. Jason Heyward, Chris Taylor and Trayce Thompson are candidates to separate time there.

“The marketplace was very different as to what the Dodgers thought Cody’s value was,” Boras mentioned.

Bellinger’s manufacturing tumbled in the course of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season after profitable the MVP award. He then dislocated his shoulder in the course of the National League Championship Series. The damage required surgical procedure in November, which, by all accounts, sapped his power in 2021.

Cody Bellinger flies out during his final at-bat for the Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres.

Cody Bellinger flies out throughout his ultimate at-bat for the Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLDS towards the San Diego Padres.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Landing on the injured checklist 3 times — he fractured his fibula, handled hamstring tightness, and broke a rib — restricted him to 95 video games. He batted .165 with a .542 OPS, however the Dodgers nonetheless believed in his expertise.

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The numbers improved in 2022 however not by a lot. He hit .210 with a .654 OPS in 144 video games. He was relegated to a platoon — not beginning towards left-handed pitchers — by September. The demotion took one other step with the season on the road in Game 4 of the National League Division Series when he was benched towards San Diego Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove.

Cubs officers mentioned Bellinger will play day-after-day in heart discipline. Their focus is on two areas: his well being, which they consider will produce extra constant mechanics.

“I think all of those things are intertwined,” Hawkins mentioned. “It’s always something at the lower end of the chain that affects something on the upper end of the chain. The body’s a system. The swing is a system. And you can’t do one thing without affecting the other.”

Bellinger hung out throughout offseason coaching with former main league participant Matt Holliday and his son Jackson — the highest general choose in final yr’s draft — at Oklahoma State earlier than signing with Chicago. Cubs hitting coach Dustin Kelly, who beforehand labored within the Dodgers group, mentioned he started working with Bellinger on the Cubs’ advanced in Arizona two days after he signed.

“Gold Glove, rookie of the year, MVP, to have that at 27, we were all like, ‘Wow, this is going to be awesome,’” Kelly mentioned. “And it’s been great. He’s been open to everything we’ve kind of thrown at him. And then he’s had some great ideas of his own that we’ve started to incorporate a little bit more with some of his training.”

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Hoyer mentioned the membership has emphasised Bellinger being extra of an athlete within the batter’s field and focusing much less on changes.

“The Dodgers are really good at what they do,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer mentioned, “but sometimes getting a guy out of a certain environment can really help.”

Cubs supervisor David Ross acknowledged Bellinger has some extent to show earlier than hitting free company once more. Maybe his days as an MVP candidate are over. But there’s loads of room between his monster 2019 season and his manufacturing during the last three years. Millions of {dollars} are at stake.

The trial launched Saturday with a blunder over the sound system earlier than the general public tackle announcer acquired the quantity proper for his subsequent at-bat. It’s the type of rebound Bellinger wants, too.