The Dodgers designated Ted Lilly for assignment Thursday, ending the 37-year-old pitcher’s tenure in Los Angeles — and maybe his career.
“More than anything this year, it’s been an injury thing,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Nobody wanted to do this. We like Ted. We think he can pitch. He just wouldn’t stay healthy.”
Lilly spent more time on the disabled this season than the active roster.
After recovering from left shoulder labrum surgery last winter, Lilly was shut down from the beginning of the regular season until April 28. Though Lilly wanted to come back sooner, Mattingly said he wanted Lilly to increase his innings workload in the minor leagues first.
Lilly made two starts before a strained right rib cage forced him back on the disabled list from April 30 to May 20. The left-hander made three more starts before a neck strain shut him down from June 5 until Wednesday.
In between he made five rehabilitation starts — five at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and one with Triple-A Albuquerque. In 30 ⅓ minor-league innings, Lilly allowed 43 hits 27 earned runs.
Mattingly said that Lilly was a candidate to pitch Wednesday night in Toronto if the game had gone beyond 10 innings. But he was not a candidate for a long-term role in a Dodgers bullpen or starting rotation that was already full. Lilly has made only 25 relief appearances and 331 starts this season, but he’d already accepted being assigned to the bullpen.
Allowing Lilly to pitch in relief “was tough for us without seeing it, to displace one of the guys we have now,” Mattingly said. “J.P. (Howell) and Paco (Rodriguez) are doing their job.”
Lilly is owed approximately $4 million in the final year of his contract — a three-year, $30 million extension he signed in October 2010. The Dodgers have 10 days to decide whether to return Lilly to the 40-man roster, place him on waivers, trade him, release him or outright him to the minor leagues.
In five starts this year, Lilly went 0-2 with a 5.09 earned-run average and never proved that he could pitch deep into major-league games, throwing a combined 23 innings. Earlier this month Lilly told the team that he would be better served pitching out of the bullpen.
Elian Herrera was recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque, where he was hitting .290, and is in uniform tonight against the Cincinnati Reds.
Scott Van Slyke was not a candidate to be recalled from Albuquerque because he was optioned out when the Dodgers activated Matt Kemp from the disabled list Sunday. A player can not be recalled from the minors less than 10 days after being optioned.
With six days remaining before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Dodgers have 38 players on their 40-man roster.