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Rumors and Rumblings | Taylor surprise star for Dodgers

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 15: Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor (3) leads off from first base during the first inning of the Major League Baseball Interleague game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians on June 15, 2017, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Cleveland defeated Los Angeles 12-5. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

Chris Taylor might not get any votes for National League Most Valuable Player at season’s end.

However, the utility man has been a valuable player for the Los Angeles Dodgers… and a very pleasant surprise, too.

Taylor is hitting .299/.384/.511 with eight home runs and seven stolen bases in 53 games. No one saw this coming in light of how the 26-year-old performed in his first three major league seasons from 2014-16, batting .234/.289/.309 with one homer and eight steals in 120 games.

Taylor didn’t even join the Dodgers until April 19 after beginning the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City.

“The biggest thing for me has been getting an opportunity,” Taylor said. “It’s the first time I’ve had a chance for regular at-bats in the major leagues. It’s allowed me to be more consistent, get into more of a groove.”

It didn’t appear Taylor would get this big an opportunity coming into the season. However, injuries and poor performance have opened the door and he has burst through it.

Taylor’s versatility has also helped. He has made 16 starts at second base, 15 in center field, and three each at third base and left field. He has also appeared in two games at shortstop, a position at which he made a combined 62 starts for the Seattle Mariners in 2014 and 2015.

The Dodgers acquired Taylor last June 19 in a trade for pitcher Zach Lee.

The Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks are tied for second place in the National League West, one game behind the Colorado Rockies.

“Everything we’ve asked to do, he’s done,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Taylor. “He plays good defense at multiple positions and he’s come through with a number of key hits. He’s been a very big part of the success we’ve had so far this season.”

Taylor couldn’t be happier.

“I always felt I could be a productive major league player if given the chance,” Taylor said. “It’s been fun to get that opportunity, especially on one of the best teams in baseball. I couldn’t be happier.”

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The Chicago Cubs continue to spin their wheels a year after winning the franchise’s first World Series title since 1908.

The Cubs profess publicly that they still like their chances, as FanRag’s Jesse Spector wrote earlier this week. Indeed, though Chicago is a game under .500 at 33-34, it is in second place in the weak N.L. Central, just 2.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers.

However, privately, some around the Cubs aren’t painting such a happy picture.

“It’s just not the same as last year,” a Cubs source said. “We’re not playing well at all, our pitching isn’t nearly as good, but the biggest thing for me is that as exhausting as last season and the offseason was, our guys just haven’t been able to reignite that spark.

“I know it’s still relatively early in the season but …”

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 10: Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) reacts after striking out swinging during the game between the Colorado Rockies and the Chicago Cubs on June 10, 2017 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire)

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One of what has turned out to be one of the most lopsided trades of the offseason has helped the Brewers become the surprise leaders in the N.L. Central.

Third baseman Travis Shaw is hitting .296/.350/.532 with 12 home runs and seven stolen bases in 59 games. The Brewers acquired him from the Boston Red Sox for right-handed reliever Tyler Thornburg, who has not pitched this year and is scheduled for season-ending shoulder surgery.

The Red Sox deemed Shaw expendable after he hit just .242/.306/.421 with 16 homers and five steals in 145 games last season as their regular third baseman, while Pablo Sandoval missed all but three games with a shoulder injury.

“He looks a whole lot more relaxed this season,” a scout from an N.L. team said of Shaw. “He’s not chasing as many balls outside the strike zone as he did last year and he’s making solid contact on a more consistent basis. He’s been a really good pickup for the Brewers. They needed a good left-handed bat in the lineup and now they have two with him and (first baseman) Eric Thames.”

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This week’s Series of the Week has the Rockies visiting the Dodgers Friday through Sunday at Dodger Stadium in a pivotal N.L. West showdown.

Rookie Kyle Freeland is scheduled to pitch Friday night for the Rockies against fellow left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, while Tyler Chatwood will face Kenta Maeda on Saturday night and rookie German Marquez squares off against lefty Clayton Kershaw on Sunday afternoon.

The Rockies are 5-4 against the Dodgers this year after Los Angeles won the previous three season series by a combined total of 36-21.

Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado is 12-for-34 (.353) with five doubles and four home runs this season against Los Angeles, while center fielder Charlie Blackmon is 11-for-31 (.355) with one double, two triples and one homer.

Dodger rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger has gone 5-for-15 with two doubles and one home run against the Rockies.

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