Max Muncy said it wasn’t an excuse for his poor start.
But after being put on the injured list Saturday because of left elbow inflammation, the Dodgers infielder acknowledged his elbow has been a factor in his struggles over the first couple of months of the season.
“I’ve been grinding through some things,” Muncy said. “But unfortunately I’ve been trying to put my body on the line, and I just need to take a step back for a couple days and just reset and give my body a chance to heal up.”
Muncy’s placement on the injured list had been expected.
Though he was on the opening day roster after spending the offseason rehabilitating from a torn ligament and other damage his elbow sustained during the final day of last regular season, Muncy hadn’t looked right this year.
He is batting just .150, the worst mark among qualified hitters in the majors. He has a .263 slugging percentage, ranking fifth worst. And despite drawing 34 walks, second most in the majors, he has only three home runs, by far his fewest through 41 games of a season since he joined the Dodgers in 2018.
The final straw came during the Dodgers’ series against the Washington Nationals this week, when Muncy banged his elbow into a barrier trying to catch a foul ball and later landed on it while trying to make a diving play at third base.
“It just flared up a little bit,” Muncy said. “[Going on the IL will] just give it a chance to calm down. It also happens to come at a good time mentally. Just take a step back, let it heal and come back ready to help this team win going forward.”
Neither Muncy nor manager Dave Roberts offered a timeline for when the slugger might return, but both were hopeful time away from the field will do him good physically and mentally.
“I think when that time comes physically to be back, and really ready to feel like you can go out there and have clarity and reset, is when that’s gonna happen,” Roberts said. “It could be two weeks. It could be three weeks.”
Roberts said Muncy and the team had been talking about options in recent days. At first, they discussed giving Muncy a few days off. But Roberts said both sides agreed an IL stint would be better for the 31-year-old, who last season finished 10th in National League most-valuable-player voting before missing the playoffs because of his elbow injury.
“If there was ever a time to maybe take a step back and give it a chance to rest up,” Muncy said, “now is definitely it.”
Muncy didn’t want to speculate on how much the elbow has affected his performance this season.
“I’m not saying it hasn’t been there,” he said, “but I’m not ever going to use that as an excuse.”
He said he feels like the strength in his arm is still there but acknowledged, subconsciously, the lingering injury has perhaps kept him from “getting through the ball like I’m used to.”
In hindsight, does Muncy believe he should have sat out the start of the season to give his elbow more time to recover?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know if I have a good answer for that one.”
Muncy wasn’t sure what his next steps would be. He said he didn’t believe he would need any scans taken on the elbow. He didn’t seem concerned about any potential need for surgery if the issue doesn’t improve, noting surgery was “never an option” after initially getting hurt last year.
Roberts told Muncy to not even pick up a bat during this weekend’s series in Arizona. He wanted Muncy to start fresh next week. The hope is it will help him start looking like his old self again later this year.
“I want to be back as soon as possible,” Muncy said, “but I also have to be smart knowing that maybe coming into the year I maybe should have taken a couple days. But I felt like I was ready to go. So I just need to be a little smarter about it.”