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.
Dodgers pitcher Brandon League is dressing up as Psy for Halloween. The Korean rapper is best only known in United States for the song and music video “Gangnam Style,” a frequent champion on “Dodgers Jukebox” this year.
Coincidentally, San Francisco Giants broadcasters Jon Miller and Dave Flemming were doing the “Gangnam Style” dance today — a “perk,” I suppose, when your team wins the World Series and throws a parade.
Usually, another “perk” of winning the World Series is that you’re considered the favorites to win your division next season. Not in League’s opinion.
“We are going to be the team to beat next year,” he said. “We have everyone coming back, everyone coming back healthy.”
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.
Kenley Jansen finds himself in an interesting position as the 2012 season comes to a close. He’s the one Dodger we know is facing surgery in the off-season (there might be a couple others; more on them in a bit). This is no ordinary bone spur or knee scope, either, this is a cardiac ablation designed to correct the arrhythmia that hospitalized Jansen in September and inadvertently cost him his job as the Dodgers’ closer.
Jansen is scheduled to meet with head athletic trainer Sue Falsone and the surgeon, Dr. Koonlawee Nademanee, early next week to determine when and where Jansen will have the surgery. It’s expected to happen before the end of the month.
The website Livestrong.com has an easy-to-understand description of the surgery and its risks. Jansen is well aware that this is no ordinary surgery.
“You’ve just got to be confident in the doctor and believe in God, pray to God, everything’s going to be OK,” he said. “God’s going to take care of me. God’s going to take care of the doctor. Everything’s going to be better down the road. I don’t have to deal with it anymore. I’m excited just to get this done with. Hopefully there won’t be another episode.”
Kenley Jansen was all smiles Friday after receiving final clearance to come off the blood-thinning medication that has prevented him from playing or practicing the last two weeks.
Jansen took an electrocardiogram test Thursday and expects the dose of Pradaxa he takes tonight will be his last. The 24-year-old pitcher reiterated that he’ll have surgery once the season is over.
In the meantime, he’s ready to pitch, but the team will wait at least four days for the blood-thinning medication to leave his system. The Dodgers begin a three-game series against the Nationals on Tuesday.
“If they want to give me the ball in the ninth inning, I’m ready,” he said. “I’m built for it.”
Kenley Jansen is facing something between a best- and worst-case scenario after learning Tuesday that he must take prescription blood-thinner medication for another 10 days. The 24-year-old closer originally believed he would miss either five days or four weeks; instead he is targeting a Sept. 18 return when the Dodgers visit the Washington Nationals.
“It’ll be a perfect time to come back and help the team,” Jansen said.
Jansen said that he will have surgery as soon as the season is over to correct the cardiac arrhythmia that originally forced him to the hospital last Tuesday. The procedure, called a cardiac ablation, “works by scarring or destroying tissue in your heart that triggers an abnormal heart rhythm” according to the Mayo Clinic website. It is not an open-heart surgical procedure. Jansen said the recovery time is “probably a month, two months.”
“It’s a relief,” he said. “It’s not something you want to worry about every year.”
Jansen hasn’t had a recurrence of the arrhythmia since last week.
“Whenever I’m off the medicine,” he said, “I’ll be ready to roll.”
The Dodgers will continue forward with Brandon League and Ronald Belisario splitting the closer’s duties. Belisario will get the ninth tonight in a save situation because League pitched two innings on Monday.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen will meet with a cardiologist today to determine whether he can resume pitching Friday or must miss the next four weeks because of a cardiac arrhythmia.
One could downplay the significance of the meeting, but only because Brandon League and Ronald Belisario have pitched well lately. Since Aug. 20, the two-man closing committee is 2-for-2 in save opportunities, with 19 strikeouts and zero earned runs in 14.1 innings. Manager Don Mattingly said he is comfortable using League and Belisario in the ninth inning for the remainder of the season if he has to.
But Mattingly isn’t downplaying the importance of Jansen’s appointment.
“You can’t say that you can go without Kenley and be as good,” the manager said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t get it done. You have to make things work, that’s all. It’s like playing without Matt (Kemp) — you know you’re not as good but you can make it work. You can still win games.”
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.