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Dodgers rookie Miguel Vargas a work in progress offensively and defensively

MILWAUKEE — Something changed for Miguel Vargas recently and he knows exactly what it was.

“I’m just getting a lot more hits,” Vargas said with a smile.

Three weeks into his rookie season, the Dodgers infielder hadn’t gotten many hits and was batting under .200. Thanks to a six-hits-in-three-games burst last week, Vargas has raised his average to .221 and showed some flashes of the hitter the Dodgers think he can be.

It took an adjustment in the batter’s box to free that up, Vargas said. Instead of starting with his hands frozen in place, he has added more movement to his setup as a way to free up his athleticism and enable him to attack more pitches.

“I’m just trying to get more rhythm in the box,” he said. “I was getting stuck so now I’m trying to get more rhythm in the box.”

His hands might have been a factor in his slow start for a different reason – at least one of them. Vargas suffered a hairline fracture in his right pinkie during spring training and then was hit on the right thumb by a pitch during the first week of the season.

He jokes that “I still have three more fingers to go” and dismisses the hand injuries as part of the reason he got off to a slow start.

“Maybe to you but I don’t think about that as excuses,” he said. “I just try to go out and compete every day. Now we’ve figured out something new.”

Defensively, he remains a work in progress as well. Vargas has been charged with only two errors but advanced defensive metrics rank him well below average among second basemen, particularly in range.

An adjustment might help there as well, according to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

“He’s catching what he gets to,” Roberts said, acknowledging that range is the 6-foot-3 Vargas’ biggest defensive weakness at this point. “It’s also a body position issue that I think we’re attacking … in the sense of not trying to start so low because he gets stuck. I think right now we feel much more confident in him not starting so low which allows for his body to move laterally better.”

BABY WATCH

Left-hander Caleb Ferguson did not make the trip to Milwaukee with the Dodgers. Instead, he went back to Los Angeles from San Diego to be with his wife, Carissa, who is expecting the couple’s first child any day – the actual due date was last week.

The Dodgers will likely put Ferguson on the paternity list Tuesday. When they do, he will become the fifth player in the past month to go on the list, joining fellow fathers Mookie Betts, Evan Phillips, Brusdar Graterol and Max Muncy.

Ferguson pitched in the games against the Padres on Saturday and Sunday and would not have been available Monday anyway.

While Ferguson’s son has waited beyond his due date, Beau Phillips arrived weeks ahead of schedule when he was born on April 20. The premature baby spent time in neo-natal intensive care. Before traveling to San Diego on Friday, though, Evan Phillips and his wife, Elizabeth, were able to take Beau home for the first time.

CATCHING UP

Will Smith was not in the starting lineup Monday for the first time since returning from his concussion. Smith had started nine consecutive games, either at DH or catcher. Roberts said he felt Monday was a good time to give Smith a break after catching all three games in San Diego. Smith will be back in the lineup Tuesday and DH on Wednesday, Roberts said.

Max Muncy started at DH on Monday, his second start as the DH in the past three games while battling illness.

“He’s hanging in there,” Roberts said of Muncy who has flu-like symptoms similar to the illness Trayce Thompson had last week. “He’s still not up to full capacity but he’s doing the best he can. I appreciate him posting. Trying to spell him a little bit by giving him a couple DH days.”

UP NEXT

Dodgers (RHP Noah Syndergaard, 1-3,6.32 ERA) at Brewers (LHP Eric Lauer, 3-3, 4.40 ERA), Tuesday, 4:40 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM

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