PHOENIX -- Corey Seager is one of four Los Angeles Dodgers rookies who have to double up on locker stalls here now that the rosters have expanded to 30-plus players. He’s sharing a space with Jose Peraza.
Before the game, just as the Dodgers were beginning to come out to stretch, Scott Van Slyke asked Seager to go back in the clubhouse and bring out some bottled waters for the parched veterans, though there was an entire cooler full of it about 20 feet away.
Seager obliged, smiling bashfully as he emerged with a plastic bag filled with water bottles. He scrambled to find his glove in time to join his teammates on the field in order to avoid coming in for more abuse.
But even as he has occasionally looked uncomfortable away from the field, he has looked quite at ease on it. Even the veterans have to respect that, especially now that he’s helping them get into the playoffs with this late push. Seager clubbed his first major league home run and was on base five times in the Dodgers' 9-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks Saturday night. Seager has reached base safely in his past nine plate appearances.
“Seager is kind of good at baseball,” Dodgers reliever Chris Hatcher tweeted after the game.
When somebody asked manager Don Mattingly whether Jimmy Rollins will slide back in as the everyday shortstop when his bruised right index finger heals, Mattingly reiterated his stance from earlier in the day.
“Sure,” he said.
There will be the usual array of social-media uproar over the injustice of benching Seager, but it’s really kind of pointless, isn’t it? Rollins is a far superior defender, and Seager will still get plenty of opportunities to play. In fact, with the way the Dodgers go down with hamstring injuries and various other maladies, it’s quite probable his playing time will be scarcely affected by Rollins’ return. There is also the matter of Justin Turner, who looks to be wearing down a bit, stuck in a 12-for-82 (.143) slump. The Dodgers shouldn’t have much trouble squeezing Seager’s bat into the lineup whether it’s at shortstop or third base.
That certainly seems like a good idea with him batting .467 with five doubles and seven walks since he arrived nine days ago. This hot streak actually started at Triple-A Oklahoma City, but it has accelerated here, an impressive carryover.
“When you’re going good, you’re always confident. That comes with it,” Seager said. “You’re relaxed, everything’s clicking. It’s been a good run so far, so I’m going to try to keep that rolling.”
It wasn’t long ago that Joc Pederson was that guy, the talented, successful rookie who the veterans worked tirelessly to keep humble. Two years in a row, he had to make a coffee run, in full uniform, before a game at Wrigley Field. As he dressed following Saturday’s game, he reflected on what it’s like to have Seager in the room to deflect the veterans’ attention.
“I guess I just try to help him and tell him some stuff so he doesn’t get it as much as me and some other people,” Pederson said. “He shows up to play every day, and that’s what it comes down to in September. We’re looking to get into the playoffs and win the World Series, and he’s going to help us do that.”
Seager, Pederson and Peraza could be part of a young core of Dodgers position players this team will build around for years to come. But, of course, Pederson also is a cautionary tale, not just for Seager, but for fans and media types who might be ready to anoint him after nine major league games. It wasn’t that long ago Pederson was the flavor of the month, the Rookie of the Year frontrunner who mashed 20 home runs before the All-Star break.
Then, Pederson picked up 19 hits in his next 119 at-bats. Only now is he emerging from the rubble of that massive slump, his batting average still .219, but his at-bats are appreciably better of late. Saturday was a good game for him. He hit his 25th home run and had two singles to the left side of the field. The Dodgers are hoping to see more of that.
Asked if Pederson has been working on going the other way, Mattingly said, “He should be. Try to make them cover the whole field instead of half of it, it’s always going to be better for you. He’s working on staying in there and still trying to firm that front side up.”
Pederson said he has enjoyed watching Seager’s arrival and has tried to help him adjust to major league life. He said he appreciates the humble way Seager carries himself around the team. As for his own efforts, Pederson seems hesitant to discuss his modest recent successes, including four home runs in his past 23 games.
“It’s a process. It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,” Pederson said. “I’m just trying to continue to get better and learn and keep grinding.”