Dodgers’ Andy Pages: ‘He’s made for big moments’

The Sporting Tribune's Doug Padilla writes about Dodgers rookie outfielder Andy Pages becoming one of the team's unsung heroes.

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers player with the least amount of major-league experience appears to be an old soul, able to recall something of a bygone era while fully immersed in the current one.

Rookie outfielder Andy Pages had only 14 games of major league experience when he stepped on the field Friday against the Atlanta Braves. While he has not been around long enough to draw from those days of yore, he has evoked a by-any-means-necessary style.

In a time of slugging percentage and runs scored in an efficient manner, Pages offered singles to the cause. A lot of them. The 23-year-old’s first four-hit game of his blossoming career appeared, at first glance, like a pile of sticks, compared to the heavy lumber of today.

Yet, Pages was able to tortoise-and-hare his collection of offerings all the way to the finish line Friday. He closed his night with an eight-pitch at-bat that culminated with the kind of launch angle and velocity more akin to a beach ball or an egg-toss competition.

As Pages’ 11th-inning floater was landing just in front of Braves center fielder Michael Harris II, Teoscar Hernandez was headed home with the winning run of a 4-3 victory. Pages was mobbed on the infield by his high-profile teammates after showing that he has plenty of staying power thanks to an assorted bag of tricks.

He pulled out another of those tricks Saturday when he had a home run among his two hits, giving him six hits in his first two games against the Braves, not to mention the immeasurable confidence against a team the Dodgers could see at some point in October.

“Every time he gets up there it seems like he takes a good at-bat, and the moment certainly doesn’t get too big for him,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “… Andy didn’t let that moment get too big.”

Showdown with Chavez

Pages wouldn’t have been criticized for letting his power swing fly in the late innings Friday. MLB’s relatively new runner-on-second rule in extra innings creates a sense of urgency. It only magnifies an already intense moment, like spiders in the car of your roller coaster.

But there was Pages on Friday in a duel with Jesse Chavez, who is amid his own brave fight while trying to stave off extinction of the crafty right-hander role. The contrast was rich. The 40-year-old Chavez has more years of experience (17) than Pages had games played.

So Chavez did what longtime veterans do against the next generation. He played a game of experience vs. youth. Chavez also liked the odds that Pages would let his power swing fly, so he offered an assortment of offspeed pitches that were flipped out of play with flat-footed swings for foul balls.

The dance lasted until the count was full and Pages made just enough contact on an 87.3-mph cutter, after Chavez had exhausted a slew of 74-mph curveballs, the last two of which were clipped foul.

“In those moments, obviously try to not get too anxious,” Pages said through an interpreter. “I’ve had experiences where I get a little bit out of character but try to be composed and do my job.”

Spoken more like a veteran, which Pages has managed to look like with each passing day.

The reality is that a true veteran is on the road to getting his job back from Pages, unless the Dodgers can get creative with the roster.

On Friday, outfielder Jason Heyward took another step in his return from a lower back injury when he ran at full speed during his rehab work and went through hitting drills without pain. Heyward is expected to take batting practice this week then participate in a simulated game after that.

Pages’ chance to show what he can do in the big leagues came as a combination of Heyward’s injury and Chris Taylor’s struggles. Heyward isn’t going anywhere and the Dodgers aren’t likely to quit on the versatile Taylor, who is on a $13 million deal this year and another next year.

Perhaps Pages becomes the victim of a roster squeeze in the coming weeks. Or maybe more moments like Friday and Saturday make it impossible to do without the power-hitting speedster that has shown impressive plate coverage as well.

“We have a lot of really good players on this team,” Pages said. “I’ve had a lot of talks with them and I’ve been able to take the things I’ve learned from them and use them on the field.”

Those that have been asked for advice were as happy for Pages as if the game-winning hit Friday was their own.

“Watching him play, watching him develop these couple of weeks since he’s been up here, he’s a great guy and he’s always asking how to get better,” said Teoscar Hernandez, who hit a home run in Friday’s game. “Just trying to be a better player, even better. And today he showed it. He’s made for big moments. He’s not afraid to go out there and have success at any moment.”

Pages safe, for now

Roberts is expected to keep Pages in the lineup for the immediate future, and why not? In his first 16 games, Pages had a .957 OPS, four home runs and 12 RBIs with 14 runs scored.

Since he has been on the field following his mid-April arrival, the bottom of the order has awakened. The Dodgers entered play Saturday with eight victories in their previous 10 games. They were 3-6 on the homestand before that.

“He wasn’t going to let anyone win that game for us,” Roberts said. “We trusted the head. We trusted the talent obviously and he just rose to the occasion. It’s fun to watch.”

Just how long it will be around to watch remains to be seen, although Pages has shown he will be hard to live without.