Chad Billingsley gave an upbeat self-diagnosis on his right elbow when spring training began. One week later, he looks like the same pitcher, Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Tuesday.
“Chad, the ball’s coming out fine,” Honeycutt said. “He hasn’t missed any time other than just having a little bit of soreness in the calf from our running program. Arm-wise, it’s been very impressive.”
Billingsley hasn’t been limited in his throwing since spring began. Only two Dodgers pitchers have: Javy Guerra and Ted Lilly. Guerra had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder November 2. Lilly had the same procedure on his left shoulder Sept. 21.
“Ted, even though we’ve taken a little more conservative approach with his times on the mound,” Honeycutt said, “giving him two days in between — him and Javy Guerra — each time he’s been on the mound he’s been very good. Very solid.”
Maybe the biggest injury news is this: Kenley Jansen has been bothered by an ingrown toenail. Other than Scott Elbert, who had elbow surgery on Jan. 23 and is expected to miss opening day, the entire pitching staff is healthy one week into spring training. Knock on wood.
Today begins our daily countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training on Tuesday with a position-by-position breakdown of the Dodgers’ roster. We begin with the bullpen.
I didn’t include Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano or Ted Lilly on this list, even though one or more of them could wind up pitching out of the ‘pen. Even without them, this is a solid unit on paper with ample depth. The closer situation is fairly clear, but the Dodgers enter the season with more viable options for the ninth inning than they’ve had in recent seasons.
There are a few injury concerns facing this unit, but none are severe. With one exception, the Dodgers’ bullpen should start the season healthy, capable of becoming one of the best in the National League.
Reliever Javy Guerra underwent a 25-minute arthroscopic procedure on his right shoulder today, according to a team spokesperson. Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed the surgery.
The procedure involved a cleanup of bursitis and the A-C joint that is at the top of the shoulder. Guerra will start his throwing program in six weeks and is expected to be competitive by spring training.
Guerra went 2-3 with eight saves and a 2.60 earned-run average last season. He lost his closer’s job to Kenley Jansen early in the season. Though often effective, Guerra was beset by a knee injury and an oblique injury that ultimately ended his season.
The Dodgers signed Brandon League to a three-year contract yesterday worth $22.5 million. General manager Ned Colletti envisions League closing, though ultimately that decision will fall to manager Don Mattingly. The value of League’s contract makes that seem like a straightforward decision — why pay a guy $7 million-plus to pitch the eighth inning? — but the decision on paper is closer than you might think.
For one thing, League is one of three pitchers who closed games for the Dodgers last year (three-and-a-half, if you include Ronald Belisario’s brief time co-closing with league in September). He, Belisario and Kenley Jansen are all high-strikeout power pitchers with a repertoire worthy of the role. Of course, if Jansen weren’t waiting in the wings at the time, the Dodgers might have continued to let Javy Guerra pitch through his early-season struggles; Guerra finished the season with eight saves and a 2.60 ERA. Arguably, that makes four capable closers in the Dodger bullpen. And while Guerra pitched his way out of the job, Jansen only lost the job because of a health setback.
Among that quartet, League has the most career saves (60). Want to guess how many active major-league pitchers have more? Thirty-seven. Experience isn’t everything — I would rather have League pitching the ninth inning in 2013 than, say, Jason Isringhausen — but the point is that Jansen (34 career saves), Guerra (29) and Belisario (3) aren’t that much less proven in the ninth inning than League.
So for today’s poll question, we give you the manager’s jersey and a baseball to hand to your closer of choice.
Right-handed reliever Josh Wall was recalled from for the third time this season from Triple-A Albuquerque and Javy Guerra was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique muscle strain retroactive to Sept. 3.
“He said it happened while he was warming up” before his last appearance on Sunday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
The Dodgers needed to move Guerra to the disabled list because Wall had been optioned to Triple-A within the last 10 days.
Guerra tossed a scoreless inning on Sunday in his only appearance since being recalled from Albuquerque and has not allowed a run in his last 10 outings (12.1 IP) dating to July 28. Overall, Guerra is 2-3 with eight saves and a 2.60 ERA in 45 games with the Dodgers.
Wall is 1-0 with an 11.57 ERA in three relief appearances. Since being optioned Aug. 30, Wall has made two scoreless appearances, including picking up the save in Albuquerque’s division-clinching win over Omaha on Sunday. With the Isotopes, Wall was selected to the All-Pacific Coast League team after leading the circuit with 28 saves and going 2-1 with a 4.53 ERA in 55 games.
“Javy, I was using kind of as a replacement with Jamey Wright. He kind of stepped into more of a later-inning situation,” Mattingly said. “Javy could go multiple innings. So that changes that. We brought up John Ely, who can step into that role. Josh Wall is more of a power, one-inning guy, but he’s pretty durable. I think Josh can help us.”
Among Dodger fans, Javy Guerra had to be the most expected September call-up from the time he was demoted on August 21. Kenley Jansenis out for at least a week and Guerra’s eight saves are second among Dodger pitchers this season. With a 2.66 ERA in 44 appearances, Guerra wasn’t really expected to be optioned to Albuquerque to make room for Rubby De La Rosa in the first place.
Yet when Guerra found out he was headed back to Los Angeles after the Isotopes’ game Friday night, he was genuinely pleased to hear the news.
“I’ve learned in this game you don’t have to expect anything,” Guerra said.
The Dodgers recalled catcher Tim Federowicz and pitcher Javy Guerra from Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday, as expected. They will be joined in Los Angeles by pitcher John Ely, who was added to the 40-man roster.
Ely wasn’t specifically mentioned as a possibility by Dodgers manager Don Mattingly on Friday, but his addition comes as no surprise. Other than Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, Dodger starters had a 4.95 ERA in August. Ely was named the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year after going 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA and 165 strikeouts, leading the league in all three categories.
The 26-year-old right-hander finished the campaign on a six-game winning streak, going 6-0 with a 2.47 ERA (15 ER/54.2 IP) in his last eight starts dating to July 23. The Illinois native made his big league debut in 2010 and is 4-11 with a 5.35 ERA in 23 Major League games (19 starts).
To make room for Ely on the 40-man, Alfredo Silverio was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Silverio had been on the 15-day disabled list but was not expected to play this season after sustaining back, shoulder, neck and elbow injuries, plus a concussion, in a car crash in January.
Rosters expand Saturday around Major League Baseball to include all players on the 40-man roster. The Dodgers are expected to bring two players up from Triple-A Albuquerque: catcher Tim Federowicz and pitcher Javy Guerra.
Federowicz is hitting .296/.371/.465 with 11 home runs and 76 RBIs in 114 games, which ranks third on the Isotopes. The 25-year-old appeared in the first seven games of his major-league career last season with the Dodgers, going 2-for-13.
Guerra had a pair of scoreless two-inning stints Aug. 22 and 25, then allowed four runs while recording only one out last Wednesday in Oklahoma City. His Triple-A ERA is an unsightly 8.31.
Those are the only two players expected to be added to the active roster Saturday, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that more could be added later on. One possibility is Dee Gordon, who was transferred to the 60-day disabled list on Thursday and therefore can’t come off until next Monday at the earliest.
Gordon is batting just .133 (2-for-15) in Albuquerque as he recovers from surgery on his right thumb, however, and might not be back Monday.
“He really hasn’t swung the bat well yet, so we’re going to let him play as long as we can,” Mattingly said.
The Pacific Coast League regular season ends Monday. The Isotopes are in first place, one game ahead of the Oklahoma City Redhawks, but have yet to clinch a playoff berth. Assuming they clinch, they would advance to a best-of-five first-round series, and Gordon could keep playing there.
On a day when the visiting team at Dodger Stadium had the biggest minor-league call-up of the day –if not the year, given the hype surrounding the 2010 No. 1 draft pick Bryce Harper — Nate Eovaldi’s recall made but a small ripple, if one at all.
Eovaldi found out Thursday morning that he was headed to Los Angeles for the first time this season and on Friday the Dodgers officially announced his recall from Double-A Chattanooga. Left-hander Michael Antonini, recalled Tuesday from Triple-A Albuquerque, was optioned back to the Isotopes.
“It was planned from the beginning,” manager Don Mattingly said. “With Atlanta lefty-heavy, we wanted an extra lefty.”
Both he and Eovaldi said the plan hasn’t changed for a pitcher who was tabbed the team’s “sixth starter” coming out of spring training. The 22-year-old had been used primarily as a starter the last two seasons in the minors, and started in six of his 10 appearances last season during an August/September call-up with the Dodgers.
But Eovaldi’s last two starts for the Lookouts lasted only one inning. After the first, he was pulled unexpectedly because of a potentially inhibiting groin injury to Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley. In the second (on Wednesday) he was told before the game that he would only be needed for an inning.
This time around, he’s being slotted as an extra arm out the bullpen, which shouldn’t pose a problem.
“My arm’s always been able to get warmed up easily,” Eovaldi said.