Rockies focus on slowing down Dodgers phenom Bellinger

DENVER — Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has a pleasant problem when it comes to rookie sensation Cody Bellinger.

“I keep trying to find days to give him a blow,” Roberts said, “but it’s hard to omit him from the lineup.”

The left-handed hitting Bellinger, 21, who made his major league debut April 25 and has played 16 games and on Friday batted fourth for the fifth straight game. He hit his team-leading seventh homer, swatting a hanging first-pitch curveball from Jake McGee into the right-field stands in the eighth inning Friday. Chances are good Bellinger will again be hitting cleanup Saturday when Colorado Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson starts against the Dodgers.

“He does a lot of things to help you win,” Roberts said. He has “the versatility to go from left field to first base. I like him whether it’s (against) a left-handed pitcher or a right-handed pitcher.

“He doesn’t scare off. He stays in there against a left-hander. We know McGee, he’s heavy fastball. But for Cody to look fastball and adjust to the hanging breaker and elevate it pull side — he put a good swing on it.

Bellinger is hitting .323 (20-for-62) with 18 RBI, 17 runs scored, a .391 on-base percentage and a .726 slugging percentage.

Roberts said Bellinger has “superstar skills with grinder mentality.” His father, Clay, played 183 games with the New York Yankees from 1999-2002. A former first baseman, third baseman and outfielder, the elder Bellinger played 1,414 in 16 seasons in the minor leagues.

“Understanding his dad’s story and appreciating what it takes to get to the big leagues, that’s what he’s seen as a young player,” Roberts said. “It’s part of his DNA, and it’s special.”

Anderson (2-3, 6.69) was scheduled to start Thursday, but the outing was pushed back two days due to inflammation in his left knee. He felt it two days before his last start Sunday against Arizona, but it didn’t bother him when he allowed one run in six innings with one walk and a career-high tying 10 strikeouts and recorded his first start since April 4 at Milwaukee.

Anderson is 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers this season and 2-2 with a 3.34 ERA in five career starts against them.

Left-hander Alex Wood (3-0, 2.71), who will start for the Dodgers is 2-2 with a 6.68 ERA in six starts against the Rockies and 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA in four starts at Coors Field.

Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, a left-handed hitter who batted third or fourth all season, was dropped to sixth Thursday and should be in that spot against Wood, the third straight left-hander to start for the Dodgers in this series.

Gonzalez has gone 2-for-4 in each of the past two games with a total of four RBI, giving him consecutive multihit games for the first time this season.

Gonzalez has raised his average to .208 (25-for-120) but finally seems to have found his footing at the plate.

“When my timing’s bad, my hands don’t work because I’m not giving my hands a chance because I’m not on time with my (front) foot. I’m either early or late so my hands don’t work. Chase bad pitches. That’s when I get myself out.”

For nearly six weeks, that was an ongoing problem but not one that weighed down Gonzalez, a three-time All-Star.

“I feel like I can contribute with a lot of things, not just offensively,” he said. “I know my offense at some point is going to click, and I’m going to carry the team.

“You have to go out there and believe you’re a great player, no matter what. You’re one swing away, and if it didn’t happen that last at-bat, I’m not going to carry that into the outfield.”