CLEVELAND — A 12-game lead in the National League West afforded the Dodgers plenty of room to see if J.D. Martinez’s persistent groin/hamstring issue would go away.
Since Martinez’s problem started flaring up in mid-July, he had been out of the lineup more often than he was in it, starting just 13 of the Dodgers’ 29 games before Tuesday including four games when he was scratched from the lineup at the last minute and an eight-day break between starts earlier this month after he received an epidural injection.
But they stopped kicking that can down the road on Tuesday, putting Martinez on the 10-day injured list and recalling Michael Busch from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the expectation is Martinez will be sidelined for “a couple, three weeks” as the Dodgers see if time off will make Martinez’s problem go away.
“I think that’s where it is,” Roberts said. “Running, certain swings it didn’t affect him. But when he strides out further, that’s when it gets him. He’s pretty adamant that it’s not the back. Regardless, it was impeding his swing. The one thing that we haven’t done is just quit the activity. Hopefully, that can knock it out.”
Martinez spent time on the IL earlier this season with back pain.
Roberts said Martinez won’t do any baseball activity for the next week and then start on a “hitting progression” to get him back to the Dodgers. That shouldn’t impact Martinez’s availability for the postseason. But he has acknowledged frustration with the failure to pinpoint a particular injury causing his muscles to “lock up” on him with no trigger or cause identified.
“I think right now this is something new to all of us so we’re going to read and react how he’s feeling,” Roberts said.
“The hope is that it gets cleared up. I think this should do it. The question is how long, what’s the timetable and I don’t think anyone knows right now.”
In the meantime, Busch arrives as one of the best hitters in the Pacific Coast League this season.
Busch has the highest OPS (1.047) and slugging percentage (.615) in the league, is second in extra-base hits (51), third in RBIs (83) and total bases (217) and tied for third in home runs (24).
“Still have some games when I don’t feel the greatest or don’t hit the ball the hardest, but I feel like I was still able to get on base once or twice,” Busch said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to battle with the last couple years, more consistency. I felt like through experience and at-bats I was just pretty consistent.”
Indeed he was. Shortly after being sent down by the Dodgers in late June, Busch started a 39-game on-base streak. He reached base in 42 of 43 games before being recalled with hits in 21 of his past 25 games and 17 home runs since July 1 – the most by any player in the minors or MLB.
But Busch said he wasn’t thinking about when the next call might come.
“Not really,” he said. “Obviously you’ve got to put yourself in position to get called up and that’s by playing well each and every day consistently. You do that by having good at-bats whether you have one hit or zero hits or four hits. I tried to – I don’t want to say stay away from that stuff but you can only control what you can control, trying to have good at-bats, make plays, help the team win games down there. Then whatever happens happens.”
Roberts said he plans to play Busch in two of the three games in Cleveland and will “try” to get him regular at-bats as long as he is with the Dodgers.
“Michael has earned his way to get back here, performing really well,” Roberts said.
Right-hander Ryan Pepiot pitched in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader after being added to the roster as the Dodgers’ 27th man (allowed for doubleheaders).
He traveled to Cleveland with the Dodgers and remains with the team on the taxi squad.
The Dodgers are still listing no starting pitcher for Thursday’s series finale against the Guardians. Right-hander Lance Lynn’s spot will come up Thursday but Roberts said Lynn will start Friday in Boston.
Veteran reliever Blake Treinen began a minor-league injury rehabilitation assignment in the Arizona Complex League on Tuesday, pitching one inning. It was his first game action since shoulder surgery last November. Treinen retired the side in order with two strikeouts.
Dodgers (LHP Clayton Kershaw, 11-4, 2.48 ERA) at Guardians (RHP Xzavion Curry, 3-1, 3.24 ERA), Wednesday, 4:10 p.m. SportsNet LA, 570 AM