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    Max Muncy’s prolonged absence is Michael Busch’s opportunity
    • June 24, 2023

    LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers were hoping third baseman Max Muncy would only need the minimum 10 days on the injured list before he was healthy enough to return from a strained hamstring on Friday. That dream was dashed.

    Muncy, whose 18 home runs rank fifth in the National League, took ground balls at third base prior to Friday’s game against the Houston Astros. He swung a bat and ran, but continued to experience tightness in his left hamstring. He’ll remain on the IL for at least another day, and possibly two, Manager Dave Roberts said.

    That means the short runway the Dodgers were giving rookie Michael Busch is looking slightly longer. Roberts confirmed Busch will start at third base for the sixth consecutive game Saturday.

    “I applaud Michael, given this is the first year he’s really played a lot of third base,” Roberts said “Other than the little pop-up mishap the other day he’s been great. Taking a new position and playing it like he has, (working) hard, it’s great. It’s a good opportunity for him.”

    Some unusual circumstances preceded that “mishap” in Wednesday’s game against the Angels. Catcher Will Smith also appeared to lose a Hunter Renfroe pop-up in the glowing stadium lights as it ascended and descended between third base and home plate. Busch tracked the pop-up down but a runner, Luis Rengifo, was fast on his heels rounding third base in case the ball landed fair. It landed foul as Busch’s glove missed the ball by inches.

    It was the third error Busch has committed in 67 major league innings at third base.

    Busch had played 1,995 minor league innings at second base and only 196 at third base prior to this week. At the University of North Carolina, Busch was primarily a first baseman. In high school, he was primarily a shortstop.

    At least Busch’s bat has never been a question mark. On Tuesday, he drove in the Dodgers’ first run in a 2-0 victory over the Angels. He entered the weekend with a .194 batting average, but he won the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week award for the week ending June 11, validating the idea that there is little left for him to prove offensively in Triple-A.

    Now he’ll get at least a few more days to prove he can hit in the majors.


    The Dodgers made one transaction prior to Friday’s game, activating right-hander Phil Bickford and optioning left-hander Alex Vesia to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Bickford pitched a scoreless inning for OKC in his only minor league rehab appearance after experiencing back tightness on June 2.

    Vesia, who pitched a scoreless inning in Wednesday’s bullpen game in Anaheim, is 0-4 with a 7.58 ERA in 23 games.

    Pitching back-to-back minor league games Tuesday and Wednesday was not an issue for rehabbing reliever Daniel Hudson, Roberts said. The right-hander, who has missed the entire season while recovering from surgery on his left knee last year, is scheduled to throw an inning Tuesday in Arizona.

    “Then once he does that, if all goes well, an activation next weekend is a possibility,” Roberts said.

    Jimmy Nelson (elbow) made a minor league rehabilitation appearance in a Triple-A game for the first time since April 25 with OKC. The right-hander threw 13 pitches in his only inning; his own throwing error led to an unearned run.


    Left-hander Julio Urías (strained left hamstring) is targeting four innings and 60 pitches for his minor league rehabilitation start with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Sunday, Roberts said. … Noah Syndergaard is making progress from a finger blister, but his timeline for throwing off a mound and facing hitters is unknown. Roberts said the right-hander is “a ways away.” … Infielder/outfielder Chris Taylor (knee) practiced tracking fly balls Friday but continues to struggle with lateral running. He’s expected to be limited to pinch-hitting duties this weekend. … Thursday’s annual Blue Diamond Gala raised $3,555,112 for the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, the team announced.


    Houston Astros (RHP Ronel Blanco, 1-0, 4.66 ERA) at Dodgers (RHP Bobby Miller, 3-1, 2.83 ERA), Saturday, 4:15 p.m., Fox/Ch. 11, 570 AM

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    ​ Orange County Register