LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have loaded up for the stretch run, but their roster is still evolving. On Friday afternoon, they activated one of their newest additions, Trea Turner, and worked him out at the relatively new position of second base. Meanwhile, one of their biggest stars, Cody Bellinger, came to grips with life as a part-time player and their longtime ace, Clayton Kershaw, pondered a return before October.
Kershaw, who hasn't pitched since July 3, is still shut down from throwing because of soreness around his left elbow, though Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expects him to resume playing catch "relatively soon." His elbow is still recovering from a three-inning simulated game that took place on July 27, a setback Kershaw blamed on ramping back up too quickly.
"It's frustrating," Kershaw said. "It's still nothing serious, but it's just something that's gonna take a little bit of time. It's no fun. Being hurt is miserable. I really don't enjoy it at all, especially with what we have here and the guys that we have coming in. This stretch run right now -- I wanna be part of it so bad. I wanna do everything that I can to be back, and I think I will be. But it's definitely looking more like September than August. I know we're still gonna be in the middle of it, so I'm excited to be a part of it then."
The Dodgers began their weekend series against the crosstown Los Angeles Angels 3 1/2 games behind the San Francisco Giants for first place in the National League West. Bellinger, batting only .168 while fighting mechanical flaws that are at least partly a byproduct of offseason shoulder surgery, was out of the starting lineup even though the Dodgers were off the previous day. Roberts said Bellinger, a left-handed hitter, will essentially transition into a platoon player for the foreseeable future, starting against righties and sitting against lefties.
Turner, a shortstop by trade, will get the vast majority of his plate appearances as a second baseman so that Corey Seager can stay at his natural position. Chris Taylor will start in center field against lefties -- as he did on Friday -- and also provide cover in left field. Bellinger, the 2019 National League MVP, will see his playing time cut by at least a third. Gavin Lux, the former top prospect who has yet to establish himself in the major leagues, is basically out of a job as he rehabilitates a hamstring injury.
"Every single night, there's gonna be a great player that's not getting the start," Roberts said. "That's just kind of where we're at. I'll divvy up playing time with workload. But right now, where we're at in the schedule, we have to win baseball games. We're four games back in the loss column and we gotta win. Every single night, with respect to workload and workload management, I need to put the best guys out there that I feel can win a ballgame that night."
Turner was the Washington Nationals' regular shortstop over the last five years but previously spent some time in center field and at second base. Upon arriving to L.A., Turner told the Dodgers he would be more comfortable remaining on the infield. Roberts said he "embraced" the idea of playing second base for what remains of this season.
"Obviously he sees himself as a shortstop, as he should," Roberts said. "But understanding our roster, second base made sense to him and he understands it gives us the best chance to win a championship."
The Dodgers have a plethora of position-player depth but are still waiting for several of their pitchers to get healthy. Kershaw is the biggest name, but fellow starters Tony Gonsolin (shoulder inflammation) and Danny Duffy (flexor strain) also reside on the injured list. Cole Hamels, signed to a major league contract earlier this week, still needs to build arm strength after making only one start since the end of the 2019 season. Victor Gonzalez, their best left-handed reliever, went on the IL Friday with knee inflammation. And Jimmy Nelson, a former starter who excelled as a reliever this season, has opted for Tommy John surgery.
At full strength -- without counting Trevor Bauer, who faces sexual-assault allegations that have kept him away from the team since early July -- the Dodgers boast eight highly capable starting pitchers, a list that includes Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, David Price, Kershaw, Hamels, Gonsolin and Duffy.
But only half of them are active -- and Kershaw is still on the mend.
"We're gonna rest as long as we can," Kershaw said, "to give myself a good chance to pitch in September, pitch some meaningful games in September and be ready to go in October."