James Outman makes exciting MLB debut in Dodgers win over Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers' Cody Bellinger, left, congratulates James Outman as he crosses home plate.

Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger congratulates James Oatman as he crosses home plate after hitting a two-run home run in his first major league at-bat. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

The Dodgers still have a few days to try to win the Juan Soto sweepstakes.

In the meantime, though, they’re already benefiting from the addition of another right-handed hitting lefty.

In a thrilling big league debut Sunday, rookie James Outman had three hits and three RBIs, including a home run in his first at-bat, to help the Dodgers beat the Colorado Rockies 7-3 at Coors Field.

The win gave the Dodgers (68-33) a streak in Denver this weekend and an MLB-best 21-5 mark in July — tied for the most wins the club has ever had in the month and the fourth-highest July winning percentage (.808) by any major league team since 1900.

On Sunday, Outman made his own mark in team history.

The 25-year-old became the first Dodger with three or more hits in his MLB debut since Mike Piazza in 1992, the only player in Los Angeles club history with three hits and three RBIs in his first career game and the first by any team MLB to have three hits, three RBIs and a home run by Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers in 2015.

As Outman stood in front of his locker afterward, a wry smile crossed his face when asked if he could have ever imagined so much from his first big league outing.

“Obviously, I was dreaming about it, playing Wiffle Ball in the backyard and stuff like that,” he said.

But …

“I never thought it would be something that would happen,” he said with a laugh, adding, “I’m still riding high, that’s for sure.”

Amid weeks of trade rumors linking the Dodgers to potential superstar pursuits like Soto, Shohei Ohtani and others around the majors leading up to Tuesday’s trade deadline, Outman’s call-up this weekend came as a bit of a surprise.

A former seventh-round pick in 2018 who was ranked as the club’s No. 17 prospect by MLB Pipeline, the outfielder began this season in Double-A seemingly behind several other young players in the organization’s talented farm system.

But after hitting 16 home runs with the club’s Tulsa affiliate, he was promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City a month ago.

Dodgers shortstop James Outman hits an RBI double against the Colorado Rockies in the eighth inning on Sunday.

Dodgers shortstop James Outman hits an RBI double against the Colorado Rockies in the eighth inning on Sunday. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

In 22 games there, the Redwood City native batted just .225. However, when outfielder Zach McKinstry was dealt to the Chicago Cubs this weekend in exchange for reliever Chris Martin, Outman was called up as the only healthy outfielder left on the 40-man roster.

“He’s a guy we’ve had in our camps the last couple of years,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We were hoping he would perform enough to warrant an opportunity to appear this year.”

Outman learned the news late Friday night and landed in Denver Saturday afternoon, with eight members of his family, including his parents and fiancee.

When he spoke to reporters for the first time on Saturday, he attributed his sudden rise to a “total rebuild” of his swing over the past three seasons.

“I came into pro ball swinging the bat like a caveman — very stiff, not much there,” he said. “I tried to loosen it up, get a little more through the strike zone and it paid off.”

On Sunday, the new move was on full display from the start.

During his first at-bat in the third inning, Outman unloaded on a cut to center by Rockies starter Germán Márquez, sending a two-run home run into the right bullpens to become the eighth player in franchise history to go deep. his first career at bat.

“To be honest, I don’t even remember 30 minutes after I hit it,” said Outman, who was heckled by teammates in the dugout — including being splashed in the face by Justin Turner — while reliever Alex Vesia ecstatically discovered the ball over the fence.

“I’m going to put it in my kid’s room next to all the other baseball stuff,” Outman added, with the ball already in a display case at the clubhouse. “It looked like a shelf of all my little league houses and stuff. This can top them all.”

After striking out in the fourth inning — which Outman said actually calmed him down after his early adrenaline rush — he singled in the seventh and later came around to score on a Freddie Freeman double.

In the eighth, Outman laced an RBI double to right, helping the Dodgers pull away on a day when Tony Gonsolin gave up three runs in five innings, Cody Bellinger hit a two-run double in the fourth, and every member of the lineup reached basis at least once.

“What a debut,” said Roberts. “Really fun to watch. You could just see his joy.”

It’s unclear how long Outman’s first MLB stint might last.

Turner (midsection discomfort) probably won’t play again until at least Thursday, but he’s still not on the injured list.

Chris Taylor (fractured leg) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Oklahoma City this week that will last at least seven days.

The Dodgers, of course, could also change their roster via trade before Tuesday’s deadline, including the possibility of acquiring another bat that could force Outman back to the minors.

Roberts had not yet decided whether the rookie would be back in the lineup for Monday’s opener against the Giants in San Francisco — at a ballpark that, 30 minutes from Outman’s hometown, he frequented as a child.

“I don’t think anyone could have imagined this,” Roberts said. “But we have a lot of kids that come through our system and perform. James Outman is another one of them.”

As Outman pondered his path to the big league postgame, the long-haired slugger made his approach at the plate sound simple.

“I’m not trying to force things, make things happen,” he said. “Usually I just try to hit the ball as hard as I can.”

He then reminded him of his caveman comment from the day before, answering one last question with another smile and laugh.

“Yes,” he said. “There is no other caveman for me.”

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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