Cody Bellinger in a ‘good spot’ with Cubs as Dodgers welcome him back to Los Angeles

Dodgers fans gave Bellinger such a warm reception that he was issued an automatic strike in his first at-bat after taking in the moment.

SHARE Cody Bellinger in a ‘good spot’ with Cubs as Dodgers welcome him back to Los Angeles
Chicago Cubs center fielder and former Los Angeles Dodger Cody Bellinger gestures to the crowd after being acknowledged by the Dodgers prior to a baseball game Friday, April 14, 2023, in Los Angeles.

Chicago Cubs center fielder and former Los Angeles Dodger Cody Bellinger gestures to the crowd after being acknowledged by the Dodgers prior to a baseball game Friday, April 14, 2023, in Los Angeles.

AP Photos

LOS ANGELES — Cody Bellinger anticipated that he might get emotional in his return to Dodger Stadium.  

“But those will be happy tears if they do come,” he said.

The Dodgers played his tribute video before the game Friday, snapshots of his stint in Los Angeles, where he once thought he’d spend his whole career, flashing across the video boards. Bellinger raised his cap to the cheering crowd. 

“That was probably one of the better [videos] I’ve seen,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Just lengthy, gave him a lot of love. Fans gave him a lot of love. Well-deserved.”

Bellinger has been adamant about turning the page on his last three seasons with the Dodgers. He suffered a sharp offensive decline from his MVP year during those three injury-riddled seasons, and his problems were compounded by mechanical issues that likely stemmed from compensating for those injuries. He has even consistently redirected the conversation when asked about those struggles.

How much did it surprise Bellinger when the Dodgers non-tendered him in November?

“I don’t want to talk about that right now,” he said before the Cubs’ 8-2 victory Friday. “I’ll talk about this series.”

When asked if this was the first time he felt like himself health-wise in a couple of years, he said, “I just feel really good, man. I really do. Physically, mentally, I’m in a pretty good spot.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he wished the organization could have done more to support him in recent years.

“It wasn’t terrible,’’ Bellinger said. ‘‘It wasn’t bad at all. Obviously, it didn’t end how anyone really expected it to end, but that’s life.” 

Even in the last couple of years, Bellinger’s defense didn’t decline, and he already has started to win over Cubs fans with his bat. Since snapping an 0-for-11 streak to start the season, Bellinger has two home runs, eight RBI and a .918 OPS in his last nine games going into Saturday.

“The fans are amazing,” Bellinger said. “And they’re extremely welcoming. Playing in Wrigley Field is really special. It’s a really special place. Playing center field out there, it’s been real fun. The bleachers are right on top of you, they love baseball, they love the Cubs and they’ve shown me nothing but love. It’s been a fun start to the year.”

He said the process of turning the page is over.

“When I knew I wasn’t coming back here, it hit me just how many amazing memories I had,” Bellinger said. ‘‘My younger self would be really proud of me.”

Bellinger started off his night at the plate Friday with a quick chat with Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes, a longtime teammate, and a rousing ovation from the Dodger faithful. Bellinger stepped out of the box as the cheers swelled, but when he stepped back in, plate umpire Jim Wolf issued a clock violation. 

“Me and Wolf are going to have to have a word tomorrow,” Bellinger quipped. “Nah, I was surprised, but rules are rules, I guess. And so once I got dinged, I locked it in and was just competing from there.”

Said Ross: “I wasn’t happy about that. I think Major League Baseball and umpires do a really nice job of keeping the integrity of the game. We’ve got to find those moments where you’re giving some love to players that the fan base wants to appreciate.”

Bellinger grounded out that first at-bat, but he doubled in his next and scored the go-ahead run in the fourth inning before the offense surged in the eighth. 

“We’ve got a lot of new guys over here,” Bellinger said. “But we’re all blending together really well. And we’re having a really fun time. I’ve had nothing but fun so far wearing this uniform.”

The Latest
Art
Sitting at a typewriter, the Los Angeles-based performance artist is working on a project to re-type 100 published novels — each one on a single page.
Michael Daniels, 18, was standing on the sidewalk April 2 in the 8000 block of South Phillips Avenue when someone opened fire around 7:15 p.m., Chicago police said.
At least seven trains departing from or heading to Chicago were called off — four scheduled to run Friday and three more scheduled to leave Saturday.
The shooting happened in the West Side’s Harrison District, where there are more police traffic stops than anywhere else in the city.
White Sox general manager Chris Getz understands fans’ discontent with the Sox. Another year, another season devoted to talking about injuries to key guys for a Sox team that has gotten off to a 2-11 start.