SPORTS DIGEST: Dodgers find another rookie to spark the offense

In 2013, it was Yasiel Puig. Two years later, it was Joc Pederson. Last season it was Cory Seager.

And now it is Cody Bellinger.

For the fourth time in the last five years, the Dodgers have added a rookie to the starting lineup who has moved in and taken over.

Four years ago it was Puig. Called up in June when the Dodgers were struggling, he ignited the team with his sheer talent.

Over the last four months of the season he hit .319 with 19 home runs and 42 runs batted in and the Dodgers rode his coattails to a National League West title.

The following year, the Dodgers had a strong overall team with Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez leading the way offensively and Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke leading the pitching staff and the Dodgers repeated as National league West champs.

In 2015, Pederson opened the season as the starting centerfielder and stayed there, playing 151 games and hitting 26 home runs and fdriving in 54 runs. His batting average tailed off in the second half of the season and he ended up hitting only .210 with 170 strikeouts, but Pederson established himself as a major league outfielder and he still plays a vital role with the team.

Last year Seager took the league by storm.

Like Pederson in 2015, he opened the season in the starting lineup and never let go. Unlike Pederson, he never tailed off in the second half of the season, finishing with a .308 batting average, 26 home runs and 72 runs batted in, winning the National league Rookie of the Year Award in the process.

This year, it has been Bellinger.

Like Puig, Bellinger started the season in the minors. Called up when Pederson injured a hamstring at the end of April, Bellinger has made sure he will not be sent back to Oklahoma City.

All he has done in 45 games with the Dodgers is hit 17 home runs and drive in 39 runs, both team highs, while hitting .261. He has hit two home runs in a game four times, including June 11 against Cincinnati and June 13 against Cleveland.

The two home runs June 13 came in the eighth and ninth innings. The eighth inning homer came off Andrew Miller, one of the top left-handed relievers in baseball. It was the first home run Miller had given up all year.

His ninth inning home run extended the Dodgers lead to 7-2 and provided a necessary cushion after Chris Hatcher gave up a three-run home run to Daniel Robertson in the bottom of the ninth, requiring Kenley Jansen to come in and record a one-out save.

When the current Dodger ownership bought the team from Frank McCourt, they knew the team had to rebuild its depleted minor league system.

To come up with four home-grown players in five years shows management is moving in the right direction. There have also been some shrewd trades that have helped the Dodgers maintain their status near the top of the National League West.

One of the best was what was perceived as a minor deal last season when former number one draft pick Zach Lee, a pitcher who never could crack the Dodgers starting rotation, was shipped to Seattle for infielder Chris Taylor, who had played 86 games for the Mariners over three seasons.

Taylor changed his approach to hitting in the offseason and has been a bigger surprise than Bellinger.

Playing all over the infield and outfield, Taylor has hit .293 with seven home runs and 24 RBI.

The Dodgers haven’t had the same success developing home-grown pitching — Clayton Kershaw was the last successful starting pitcher the farm system has produced — but there are supposedly a few young arms who may give future Dodger team the same lift the four young bats have given the Dodgers these last five years.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum may have to wait until 2028 to host its third Summer Olympics Games. L.A.’s bid to host the games again may get pushed back to 2028 instead of 2024. (Courtesy photo)

OLYMPICS DELAYED: It’s looking more and more like Los Angeles will be hosting the Olympic Games during the next decade, but it might not be as soon as local officials expected.

The board of the International Olympic Committee last week announced it will select the hosts of both the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics later this year.

Los Angeles and Paris are the only cities competing for the 2024 Games. Normally, the 2028 Games wouldn’t get awarded until 2021, but the IOC is breaking precedent trying to keep both Los Angeles and Paris satisfied.

The only problem is that Paris is insisting on hosting the 2024 Games, saying the site it has earmarked for its Olympic Village will not be available for redevelopment after 2024.

The full IOC is meeting in Lausanne in July and will have to ratify the board’s decision to award the 2024 and 2026 Games at that time. The host cities would then be chosen in September at a meeting in Lima, Peru.

Casey Wasserman, chairman of LA 2024, the body spearheading the campaign to bring the games to Los Angeles, released a statement June 7 that appeared to concede the 2024 Games, although he stopped just short of doing so.

“To be blunt, LA 2024 has never been only about L.A. or 2024. Even when the issue of a dual award for the 2024 and 2028 Games was initially raised, we didn’t say it’s ‘L.A. first’ or it’s ‘now or never’ for L.A. That sounds like an ultimatum,” Wasserman said.

“We don’t believe in ultimatums — we believe in partnership,” Wasserman said. “That’s why we are willing to look beyond ourselves and ask the question, ‘How can L.A. best serve the long-term needs of the Olympic and Paralympic Games?’”

He said the city and LA 2024 “want to make it clear to the IOC and the global sports community that L.A.’s primary focus isn’t on ourselves; instead, we are focused on the Olympic movement and the world. For some, that may be a surprising statement for an American bid; but it shouldn’t be because America’s support for the Games has never wavered — ever.”

Wasserman said the L.A. bid requires no public funding and all the facilities are either built or being built anyway.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Wasserman released a joint statement June 9 praising the IOC board’s decision.

“We welcome the IOC Executive Board’s decision to recognize two excellent bids from two of the world’s greatest cities. With no new permanent venues to build and unwavering public support, Los Angeles is an eternal Olympic city and ideal partner for the IOC,” Garcetti and Wasserman said.

“We look forward to sharing our unique story with the IOC membership in July and working together to offer the best path forward for our city and the Olympic movement’s future.”

Current plans call for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the new football stadium being built in Inglewood to share the opening and closing ceremonies no matter what year the Olympics come to L.A.

It will be the third Olympics for the Coliseum.


City News Service contributed to this story.