Dodgers: How should Cody Bellinger be used down the stretch and in postseason?

Jerry Trotta
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 03: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts walking back to the dugout after striking out to end the top of the seventh inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on September 03, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 03: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts walking back to the dugout after striking out to end the top of the seventh inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on September 03, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Let’s start by saying that if the Los Angeles Dodgers were running away with the NL West, this wouldn’t be a burning topic of conversation.

Since they’re a couple games back and face San Diego in a huge series this weekend, however, it’s one of the hottest storylines in baseball.

We’re talking about Cody Bellinger’s continued woes at the plate. The former NL MVP hasn’t recorded a hit since the calendar turned to September and is mired in a repugnant 5-for-65 slump over his last 21 games.

Those numbers equate to a .065 batting average, lowing his total for the year down to .158 over a handsome 82-game sample size.

Bellinger has become an extreme liability in the Dodgers lineup, so it’s time to ask the million-dollar question: how should Los Angeles use its two-time All-Star down the stretch of the regular season and into October?

How should the Dodgers use Cody Bellinger down the stretch?

It hurts that AJ Pollock is on the shelf with a hamstring injury. That’s kind of forcing the Dodgers hand in terms of giving Bellinger ample opportunities lately.

If you can believe it, Bellinger has logged at least three at-bats in every game dating back to Sept. 1, when he was deployed as a pinch hitter against the Braves. During that span, his batting average has somehow dropped 14 points.

We can’t believe we’re even saying it, but that cannot continue if the Dodgers want to catch the Giants in the NL West. If Los Angeles’ hands are tied, he simply has to bat near the bottom of the order. We can’t have a repeat of Thursday’s game vs St. Louis on our hands when he was penciled in the five hole.

When Pollock is activated off the injured list, however, Bellinger should only be used as a late-game defensive replacement. If the Dodgers want to deploy him as a pinch hitter in favorable matchups, that’s fine, but he looks too lost right now to be an everyday player.

Let’s hope Dave Roberts sticks to his word, because Bellinger isn’t helping the Dodgers win games. And for fans wanting to keep the faith in the former NLCS MVP, we hear you, but we’re approaching the middle of September. If he was going to figure to out, don’t you think it would’ve happened already?

We’re not giving up on Bellinger the player. He just has no business being in the lineup of a team that is looking to repeat as champions.

If he heats up down the stretch, great. If he doesn’t, Roberts has no choice but to use him as sparingly as humanly possible down the stretch.

The Dodgers can’t afford to keep trotting him out there hoping he’s going to magically break out of what has become a season-long slump.

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