GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Hanging out in shallow left field with alpha teammate Justin Turner, young star Corey Seager and manager Dave Roberts, the assimilation of Los Angeles Dodgers newcomer A.J. Pollock continued Wednesday morning.
Amid Turner’s easygoing banter and Roberts’ warmth and wisdom, Pollock is increasingly comfortable in Dodger Blue after spending the past 10 seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the only organization he’d ever known.
“It was weird in the beginning, just kind of getting used to it,” Pollock said. “Yeah, this is the team I was playing against for so many years, and now I am a part of their team and meeting some of the guys I’ve played against for so long.”
“Now, it is starting to get a little more familiar and normal, and I am excited. This is a great team. They’ve been to the World Series two years in a row and it is something I am really excited to be a part of,” he said.
The Dodgers signed Pollock on Jan. 24 to a five-year, $60 million contract, gambling the outfielder’s frequent injury woes are behind him. The nature of the setbacks — primarily non-soft tissue — inspires optimism, along with the way the 31-year-old Pollock takes care of himself.
After hitting a career-high .315 with 20 home runs, 76 RBIs and 39 stolen bases in 2015, Pollock sustained a broken elbow, which cost him all but 12 games in 2016.
In 2017, a groin strain limited him to 112 games. And in 2018, a broken thumb held him to 113 games, in which he hit .257 with 21 homers, 65 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.
“I know there’s been some injuries in the past,” Pollock said. “I feel like a lot of them were kind of impact and fractures and bone stuff. I don’t know that I could control too much.”
“I just try to control what I can. I am pretty pro-active with stuff. I am always looking for ways to improve. One of the biggest things in baseball is to be able to stay healthy for 162 games,” he said.
Control for the 6-foot-1, 195-pound center fielder includes nutrition, flexibility, strength and conditioning.
“I make sure my diet is pretty on point,” he said. “I try to be as disciplined as I can and not deviate from my plans. It is definitely a work-in-progress, but I take it really seriously.”
The Diamondbacks chose Pollock in the first round, 17th overall, of the 2009 draft out of Notre Dame, where he met his future wife, Kate Newall. The Australian-born, British-raised Newall started for three seasons on the Fighting Irish lacrosse team. The pair love cooking healthy meals together.
“We dig into it,” Pollock said. “Is the meat grass fed? Is it grass finished? Where are the vegetables coming from? What you read about nutrition, there’s always a new thing, a new study. We just try to be up-to-date.”
“The stuff I ate in college, I wouldn’t even put in my body anymore, and at the time it seemed very healthy. It is always about learning and getting smarter,” he said.
In terms of strength, flexibility and cardio, Pollock said, “It is a work in progress. Every year, it evolves. My philosophy has changed. I strive to get my body used to being explosive by simulating stuff on the field.”
“I used to do a lot of yoga. I still enjoy it, but as far as what I am asking my body to do, I will probably do a lot more yoga when I am done playing, because in baseball you have to be still for a while and then you are asked to sprint as fast as you can to run for a ball.”
Pollock’s swift bursts of speed are evident in covering the gaps in center field and on the basepaths, where he is a possible leadoff hitter.
“Well, he’s hit leadoff the last few years in Arizona, so obviously, we thought of him at the top of the order,” Roberts said. “Right now, I like him at the top, but that doesn’t mean that can’t change, either.”
When Pollock scorched hits to left and center on Tuesday in a spring training loss to the Royals, Roberts was pleased.
“There’s a plan in place, and today he got rewarded,” Roberts said. “He looked good up there, even the aggressive swings.”
Said Pollock, “It is spring training, so it doesn’t mean anything, but you just kind of want to go up there and have some good at bats, and feel pretty good. And I feel pretty good.”
Notes: LHP Julio Urias is under consideration for a spot in the starting rotation. He pitched an inning in his spring training debut, induced two groundouts to third base, and then struck out Oakland’s Matt Chapman, swinging. The 22-year-old had surgery on June 27, 2017, to repair the anterior capsule of his left shoulder, then returned to the Dodgers last Sept. 15 and made three starts. “He has been sharp all spring. His fastball was 95-97 (mph),” Roberts said.
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