Chris Capuano is the Dodgers’ number three starter for the immediate future.
The decision was made Friday afternoon that left-hander Ted Lilly would begin the season on the disabled list and miss his first scheduled start on April 7 in San Diego. Capuano will make that start, as well as Lilly’s second scheduled start five days later against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Dodger Stadium. Assuming his stiff neck isn’t a problem on April 14, Lilly will make his regular-season debut that day at home against the Padres.
“We just don’t feel like he’s going to be ready,” manager Don Mattingly said. “If it was an emergency or something, we had to push to get him ready for this start, he could take the ball. But that’s not what we want for his first time out.”
Lilly threw a bullpen session earlier Friday with coaches and trainers looking on. Afterward he said his neck was “maybe a little stiff” and was willing to acquiesce to the coaches’ decision.
“Teddy kind of molded to the thought that it’s probably the best way to go,” Mattingly said.
The manager said Lilly would likely throw a simulated game Monday, then make a rehabilitation start “probably (in) the Cal League.”
The decision affects both Capuano and the Dodgers’ bullpen.
The Dodgers don’t need a fifth starter until April 14. If Lilly were healthy, Capuano would have made his first start that day. Now, he will have pitched twice by then.
“I’m prepared to start that third day in San Diego,” said Capuano, who allowed one run and struck out seven in six innings Friday in his final Cactus League start. “I’ll just have to adjust either bullpen throwing or making some kind of appearance in those Anaheim games to get ready for it.”
The stakes are raised for the open bullpen spot that will be created when Lilly goes on the DL. The favorite has to be Josh Lindblom, who held batters to a .212 batting average in 29 2/3 innings with the Dodgers last season, even though the right-hander has a 4.50 ERA in spring.
Ronald Belisario and Scott Rice are also in the major-league camp. So are Rubby De La Rosa and Blake Hawksworth, but both will begin the season on the 60-day disabled list.
One thing is for certain: Lilly’s roster spot won’t go to a position player.
“There’s no reason for us not to have another guy down in the ‘pen,” Mattingly said. “I’m not making a decision yet, but there’s a couple guys there we’re looking at for that spot. You guys know who they are.”