Dodgers’ Andy Pages might be here to stay, as games like Friday show

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LOS ANGELES — Sometime this weekend or early next week, Andy Pages will cross a milestone: He will have taken more at-bats in the major leagues than he has at Triple A.

With the way he’s hit, it’s hard to see the Los Angeles Dodgers sending him back down anytime soon.

And with moments like Friday, when he delivered a jam-shot single for his fourth hit of the game to walk off the Atlanta Braves, he’s shown something.

“He’s made for the big moments,” Teoscar Hernández said after Friday’s 4-3 win in 11 innings.

Pages has flashed in his first three weeks as a big leaguer, and the Dodgers appear convinced it isn’t restricted to just that. Friday’s four-hit night against a starter 17 years his senior extended the 23-year-old’s hitting streak to nine games. The strikeout rate that accompanied just about every scouting report about him as a prospect has been well within control. More than that, he’s demonstrated that his offensive profile goes beyond just the prodigious home run power he displayed in the minor leagues.

Take, of course, his final at-bat Friday against Braves reliever Jesse Chavez. Given runners on the corners and one out in the 11th inning, Pages worked a 1-2 count back full, noticing that the veteran was trying to work him on the outer half of the plate with off-speed pitches. And yet when Chavez’s eighth pitch of the at-bat was a cutter bearing in on his hands, Pages was able to adjust, getting just enough to fist a soft liner out of the infield and down in front of Braves center fielder Michael Harris II.

His approach, he said in Spanish, was simple: “Just hit the ball forward.” It wasn’t until he rounded first base that he so much as flashed a smile. Little has seemed to stir the Cuban outfielder, who reached the big leagues less than a year removed from major shoulder surgery. He still has barely played above Double A in his career.

It hasn’t mattered. Instead, he’s become a rarity.

“He’s a young player who has been very dependable,” manager Dave Roberts said.

So much so that he’s changed some of the dynamic of how the Dodgers view their outfield. Pages’ opportunity came when Jason Heyward’s back came up lame. When Heyward’s back issue dragged on far longer than anyone expected, so did Pages’ window to stick around. The veteran outfielder has started to integrate baseball activities back into his work and could start taking batting practice on the field as soon as this week. With simulated games and a rehab assignment coming, the Dodgers are coming closer to a decision date.

Pages’ presences in the bottom of the order and in the outfield have helped address both issues in one fell swoop. Keeping him around, even when Heyward returns, would have some utility. Chris Taylor has logged just four hits in 51 at-bats this season. James Outman, who had this sort of run in April last year during his rookie season, is hitting .171 and striking out close to a third of the time. With each at-bat that Pages keeps this up, the odds of him being the odd man out in this scenario decrease.

“I think that obviously we believed in the player, the person, but you have to come up here and perform,” Roberts said. “Certainly, with a young player — I think he’s 23 years old — you don’t know what you have. So right now, he’s checking a lot of boxes and he’s performing. He’s creating his own opportunities.”

That, he has. Pages has played every single game since the Dodgers recalled him from the minors, and it’s hard to see him getting a day off any time soon. He’s continued to hit for power, logging five doubles and three home runs in his first fortnight’s worth of games. He’s had nights like Friday, when he put up a career-best four hits on all singles. There’s contact, and force behind it. And though, oddly enough, he has yet to draw a walk in the major leagues, he’s boasted a history of plate discipline and coverage.

“He’s stabilized our entire lineup,” Roberts said.

All while never seeming off-kilter himself. That, say those around the club, has been most impressive. First-base coach Clayton McCullough will often quiz young players in spring about situations to get a gauge of their acumen and instincts. Pages, he said, had excellent recall. Given the chance now to be among superstars, he’s been opportunistic, relying often on the wisdom of players like Hernández.

Given the chance to win the game himself Friday, he cooly completed the task.

“The moment certainly doesn’t get too big for him,” Roberts said. “For me, I just love the fight. … He wasn’t going to let anyone else win that game for us tonight. We trusted the head, trusted the talent, obviously, and he just rose to the occasion.”

(Photo of Andy Pages high-fiving Mookie Betts after Pages’ game-winning RBI: Kiyoshi Mio / USA Today)

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