Well, that was short-lived. Cody Bellinger, the center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is back on the Injured List, this time with a hamstring strain. Just when it looked like the Los Angeles Dodgers were going to be back to full health, two of their best hitters, Max Muncy and Bellinger, go down with injuries. At least Corey Seager is on the mend and set to start a minor league rehab assignment next week.
How long will Bellinger be out this time?
Expectations were high for Bellinger coming into the season. The 2019 MVP winner struggled during the pandemic shortened season, but he had a strong postseason. After undergoing off-season shoulder, Bellinger entered the season in good health. That all changed after only four games.
Bellinger was diagnosed with a hairline fibular fracture in the first week of the season. That led to two months of missed baseball. He returned to Los Angeles on May 29th. He hasn't found his groove but he also hasn't had much opportunity to knock off the rust. To date, Bellinger has only played 14 games. He will be stuck on that number for at least two weeks.
While Bellinger is eligible to return to the Dodgers on June 22nd, that is unlikely. Muscle strains, even the mild grade I variety, typically take 2-3 weeks of rehabilitation. Being a centerfield and occasional base stealer, Bellinger needs to be at 100% before returning. Any hesitation in sprinting may lead to routine out turning into a double.
Little information on the severity of the strain has been given. Initial reports have the potential to be grossly underestimated. Take the case of Toronto Outfielder George Springer as an example. His spring training quad strain was initially reported as mild. Two months later, he played in his first game of the season and lasted a couple of days before being shut down again.
Why are muscle strains tough to predict?
While there are three grades of muscle strains, there aren't three clear cut timelines for recovery. All strains within a specific grade are not the same severity. One grade II strain may be worse than another. After that, you have to consider individual and environmental characteristics that influence healing.
A players injury history, diet, sleep pattern, genetics, body type, strength and endurance prior to the injury, stress levels, and other psychosocial factors all influence healing. When you average out all grade II muscle strains, recovery time is 4-6 weeks, but there are always outliers, such as George Springer.
The other challenge is pain is not an indicator of full health. Muscle strains stop being painful at rest and with basic activity after a few days. Professional athletes are standing around all day. Bellinger needs to maximally contract his hamstring to run the bases and cover center field. For those reasons, expect him to be out two weeks at a minimum but likely closer to three or four.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been one of the top teams in baseball without him, but the season will start wearing on other players too. They will want him back soon, but only at 100%.