Taylor makes most of weekend chance
Perhaps the player most affected by A.J. Pollock’s elbow injury is Chris Taylor. Previously in a strict platoon in left field with Joc Pederson, the righthanded hitter’s playing time should climb until Pollock returns or a move is made to fill his vacancy. So far, Taylor has capitalized.
Taylor was a constant in the Dodgers’ three comebacks against the San Diego Padres over the weekend. On Friday, he cracked a solo home run in the fifth inning. On Saturday, he singled and scored during their five-run sixth. And on Sunday, he delivered a goahead two-run homer in the eighth before the Padres rallied in the ninth.
Taylor entered the series with one home run this season – a solo shot April 1. He finished the three-game set 7 for 13 after going 5 for 34 over his previous 15 games. His batting average climbed 56 points, to .218 from .162, in 72 hours. His success lengthened a starting lineup that didn’t include Cody Bellinger, baseball’s best hitter for the first five weeks.
“I think he’s just getting opportunities to go out there and play,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after the Dodgers’ 8-5 loss Sunday. “I think he’s taking better swings. When he does get a ball in the strike zone, he’s getting it going for
ward and not fouling it off or swinging through it. And when you start to get some hits, it breeds confidence.”
Taylor, 28, had been waiting for those results. For the past month, as he struggled to produce, Taylor said he has relentlessly tinkered with his mechanics. He studied video from 2017, attempting to replicate how he looked when he batted .288 with 21 home runs and an .850 on-base-plusslugging percentage in 140 games.
Working with hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc, who is credited with preparing Taylor for that breakout campaign as a Dodgers hitting consultant, Taylor focused on various aspects of his stance. Among them was easing the tension in his back elbow and shoulder. He wanted to stand more relaxed and loose.
“It hasn’t really shown much, but I’ve actually felt pretty good the last week or two,” Taylor said. “And I’m just trying to go up there and I’ve been working on things in the cage and I felt like I’ve been really close.”
Pollock underwent elbow surgery last week, sidelining him for an undetermined but undoubtedly lengthy period of time. He was an established right-handed outfielder joining a team that leaned left after trading Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig. Pollock struggled early but his absence has forced the Dodgers to rely on others to counter lefthanded pitching.
The Dodgers signed catcher Travis d’Arnaud on Sunday partly to add another right-handed hitter and Roberts said he could also play the infield and outfield. But Taylor, who can play outfield, second base and shortstop, will continue to get chances, especially against left-handed pitchers.
“You can’t get caught up in the numbers this early,” Taylor said. “You just got to go out there and try to help your team win a game any way you can.”