Dodgers’ Gavin Lux, his swing in sync, has Kenosha on his mind

LOS ANGELES – You could excuse Gavin Lux for having a lot on his mind. The weight is heavy enough that anyone, especially a 22-year-old navigating a strange baseball landscape, could be forgiven for having a .118 batting average next to his name.

Lux, the Dodgers’ second baseman, was a player to watch in the National League Rookie of the Year race not long ago. He was expected to at least improve on his first major league call-up, a 23-game cameo in which he hit two home runs, drove in nine, then made the Dodgers’ postseason roster last October.

Yet by the time he reported to “Summer Camp” in July, Lux looked so lost at the plate that he was left off the Opening Day roster. He was training at USC, the Dodgers’ alternate site, until last week.

In the meantime, something else happened. Lux’s hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was rocked when an unarmed Black civilian, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times by a White police officer on Aug. 23. Protests ensued. An armed teenage vigilante shot three people at the protests, killed two, and was charged with five felonies.

“If you live in Kenosha,” Lux said, “I think you’re affected by it.”

Friday, prior to the Dodgers’ game against the Colorado Rockies, Lux said he’s planning a fundraiser of some kind. The details are still being worked out. He also plans to go back to Kenosha after the season to pitch in on the ground.

“That’s when I’m really going to get involved in the community,” Lux said. “I grew up there. A lot of people I know have been affected by this.”

More than anything, Lux’s progress was delayed by the abbreviated ramp-up to the regular season and the damage it inflicted on his swing.

While baseball paused from mid-March until July because of the novel coronavirus, Lux’s regimen was not unique. He shot video of his swings. He sent the videos to hitting coaches Robert Van Scoyoc, Brant Brown and Aaron Bates. The coaches suggested adjustments as they saw fit, and Lux would try to implement the suggestions in the next day’s video.

“I think once I got back into L.A., I think just my rhythm was out of sync, how I was loading,” he said. “I was just trying to sync up my upper and lower half. I was loading out of my back side, shifting forward, colliding into the ball a little.”

Lux reported to Summer Camp on July 10, nine days after most of his teammates. He hasn’t explained why. The Dodgers played their first regular season game July 23, and 13 days simply weren’t enough for Lux to synchronize his swing.

If Lux succeeds in becoming a major league regular in 2020, it will be because his body is acting in sync again. If he doesn’t, it will have little to do with the weight of expectations, or because of the turmoil in his hometown.

Lux said his family and friends haven’t been affected directly by the protests in Kenosha, or the physical damage inflicted on some of the buildings in town. It’s been on his mind just the same.

“The uptown area, downtown area, everything was affected,” Lux said. “Those are a lot of places that people go shop. People go tour. People go to do a lot of things in those areas. Maybe not business-wise personally affected, but those are still places my family and friends go on a daily basis.”

CHASING CHRISTY

Depending on who you ask, Clayton Kershaw is either three strikeouts ahead of Christy Mathewson on the all-time list or two behind. Kershaw struck out eight batters Thursday against the Diamondbacks, bringing his career total to 2,505.

Mathewson retired after the 1916 season with 2,502 strikeouts. This is still the number recognized by the Elias Sports Bureau and, by extension, Major League Baseball. MLB still lists 2,502 strikeouts next to Mathewson’s name on its website.

Posthumous research into Mathewson’s career revealed an additional five strikeouts, which  would bring his total to 2,507. That’s the number recognized by Baseball Reference and other authoritative sources (including Wikipedia, which curiously lists both 2,502 and 2,507 without explaining the discrepancy).

Unless contemporary research has another gift in store, Mathewson’s chances of holding off Kershaw are low.

ALSO

Lux had high praise for some of the players training at the Dodgers’ alternate site: “Kody Hoese can really, really, really hit. I felt like every day he was hitting a ball off the wall or shooting a double the other way. Bobby Miller came in and was 95-98 (mph), hard slider, good breaking ball, good changeup. All the new draft guys, all the pitchers were all 95-96, with pretty good breaking balls. Shoutout to our scouting staff. Those guys were pretty impressive, especially coming right out of the draft.” … The Rockies placed pitcher Jon Gray on the injured list and recalled right-hander José Mujica. Gray was not scheduled to pitch against the Dodgers this weekend. … Manager Bud Black announced Ryan Castellani will start Sunday’s game for the Rockies opposite Julio Urías.