Bellinger settling in hitting cleanup

Bellinger settling in hitting cleanup

DENVER -- Cody Bellinger has been in the big leagues for all of two weeks and two days since his April 25 debut. He's started every game since his call-up and hit in every spot in the Dodgers order but third and ninth.

The spot that seems to be sticking is the cleanup spot, where he's hit the last five days in a row, including Friday against the Rockies at Coors Field.

Bellinger got his first hit in his first game in San Francisco, and has hit .323 with a team-high seven homers and 18 RBIs in his first 16 games after going deep in Friday's 6-2 win over the Rockies.

"I knew there was potential for him to hit cleanup for us, but it certainly sped up  his ascension," manager Dave Roberts said before Friday's second game in a four-game set with the Rockies. "The at-bat quality, his willingness to take a walk when he needs to, for me that shows maturity in how to conduct an at-bat.

"When he swings that bat, something really exciting can happen. I'm very excited to have him hitting fourth."

Bellinger has been figuring out opposing pitchers faster than they've been figuring him out.

"You see a guy twice and you start getting a little comfortable," Bellinger said after collecting two hits in Thursday's 10-7 loss to the Rockies. "You see what he has."

Bellinger, 21, is quickly getting better, raising his average nearly 40 points in the month of May, when he's hitting .341.

"The league is still trying to learn him," Roberts said. "Early on, you see teams trying to crowd him, pitch him up, but he can hunt pitches. We saw about a week ago in San Diego there was a pitch at his neck, 95 [mph], and he got the barrel to it. That's the cat-and-mouse kind of learning and picking your spots.

"Cody's a great young kid. He's a baseball player, does a lot of things to help you win. He's only going to get better."

The road to recovery

Adrian Gonzalez may be back with the Dodgers within a week, if all goes as Roberts hopes. He hit the disabled list on May 5 with right elbow soreness and is eligible to come off Monday.

"I see Adrian going on a rehab to play two or three games next week," Roberts said. "Whether that's Tuesday or Wednesday, in talking to him, that's sort of realistic."

Andre Ethier, on the other hand, could easily need six more weeks before he's in shape to help the Dodgers. He opened the season on the DL with a lumbar disk herniation.

"The last I heard from Dre is when we were back home, he was running and felt some residual pain," Roberts said. "He swung the bat a little bit. He says what gives him a problem is the bending over and essentially the running. He's kind of got a repeat of Spring Training to get back to help us."

Roberts has amended his projection from a few weeks ago, when he thought Ethier could be back by June.

"If someone told me late June, I'd be very excited," Roberts said.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.