Dodgers’ Toles working his way back from knee surgery
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Andrew Toles made a two-base error, went 0 for 3 at the plate and his team lost. All told, it was still a pretty good day for the Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder.
In his first game since a serious knee injury last May, Toles returned to left field and made two nice plays Saturday in an 8-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
“Felt pretty good, just had to get used it, offense and defense, seeing pitches. Just have to get more games,” said Toles, adding that he’s also scheduled to play Sunday.
Last May 9 against Pittsburgh, Toles tried to chase down Andrew McCutchen’s seventh-inning line drive into the left-field corner. Toles ran hard and fell awkwardly on his right knee before crashing into the low wall at Dodger Stadium.
Toles left the game, and before the month was over had surgery for a torn ACL that ended his season.
In his spring training debut, Toles batted fifth in a split-squad lineup for the Dodgers. He struck out, flied out to the warning track and softly grounded out.
Toles threw out a runner trying to score and robbed Jorge Bonifacio of a hit with a sliding, backhanded catch in the fifth inning. He also drew a two-base error in the same inning with a misplayed single.
“I missed that ball out there. I’m used to running into the corner and scooping it up at the same time,” Toles said. “Defense is kind of natural. I do need to work on stuff, like routes, but just going out there and being an athlete. That’s what I’m doing.”
In the second, Toles played a double off the wall and threw out Cheslor Cuthbert trying to score.
“I thought he moved pretty well. He made a great play at the plate,” said Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren, who served as manager for the Dodgers’ team. “Considering all the time he’s had off, that’s a great first outing.”
Prior to the injury, Toles had been primarily the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter. The Dodgers were 18-14 the night he got hurt and yet to begin their ascent to the top of the NL West and the pennant, but Toles had gotten off to a strong start by batting .271 with five homers and 15 RBIs, and scoring 17 runs.
“Just rooting them on, I can’t do anything else,” Toles said of watching his teammates’ 2017 season. “That’s one thing the coaches wanted to get in my head, just confidence. As long as you know you can hit, you should be good.”
The 25-year-old Toles made his major league debut in 2016, hitting .314 with 16 RBIs in 48 games. He found regular playing time in 2017, but he needs at-bats and defensive work in this year’s spring training to get back to the level at which he played.
The Dodgers have several quality candidates to be the regular left fielder, with Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Kike Hernandez, Trayce Thompson and Alex Verdugo in the competition. Like Toles, who also played center field last year, the group is versatile and can play other outfield spots.
Right field is set with Yasiel Puig in a main role, and Chris Taylor’s breakout 2017 that was a major cog in the Dodgers’ run to the World Series has him primed for an everyday job in center.
Geren said Toles got to Arizona well before spring training started to work on his legs. Toles feels he needs to be a little more under control and cautious, after his injury, in going after balls.
“It’s a balance. You want to play smart and hard at the same time,” Toles said.