Chad Billingsley has every reason to be optimistic.
After he was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last September, his next throw was limited to 50 mph on a closely monitored radar gun. Within months, gradually increasing his velocity and his number of throws, Billingsley was delivering pitches at 90 mph.
“You have these certain points where we’re going to test the ligament, testing our arm,” he said. “Each time I passed with flying colors.”
Forget having the best 1-2 starting combination in baseball. Ned Colletti clearly intended to put together the majors’ best 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 staff this winter.
When the Dodgers pitchers and catchers report to camp Tuesday, they present a puzzling situation that only time can solve. Chad Billingsley hopes time can heal the torn ligament in his elbow, not season-ending Tommy John surgery. Ted Lilly hopes he can pitch like a legitimate fifth starter, having not pitched in the majors since last May because of injuries. He, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang may have to hope that Colletti can find a desirable destination for their talents outside of L.A.
If healthy, it’s hard to imagine this group staying together. Otherwise, the Dodgers are left with the first eight-man rotation in major-league history, and wouldn’t that be an interesting outcome to what promises to be an interesting camp.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter is expected to miss the entire 2013 season and may be forced to retire due to a series of injuries.
The 37-year-old was bothered by a nerve issue in his shoulder that limited him to five games last season. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said Carpenter currently has health concerns in his right shoulder, arm and neck.
Significantly for the Dodgers, who have a surplus of starters one week before pitchers and catchers are expected to report for spring training, the GM added that he’s “comfortable” with his starting rotation as it’s composed. Adam Wainwright, Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller are the right-handers; Jaime Garcia is the lone left-hander but he’s questionable to start the season because of an elbow injury.
Free agent right-hander Kyle Lohse went 16-3 for the Cardinals last season and would be a sensible replacement. If Mozeliak decides one lefty starter isn’t enough, he might end up calling Ned Colletti, who has two veteran southpaws (Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly) entering camp with no assurance of a spot in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Lilly has health concerns too – he’s 37 and hasn’t pitched a major-league game since May 23 of last year – and is coming off arthroscopic shoulder surgery in September.
The circumstances seem ripe for a trade, but it will hinge on both GM’s sense of urgency. Publicly, Colletti and Mozeliak say they’re in no rush to resolve their rotation situations, but we’ll see if that changes.
One of my favorite stats from 2012 was this: Eight major-league teams used 50 or more players last season. Most fell into the category of underachievers, or at least underdogs: Boston (56), Toronto (54), Chicago Cubs (53), San Diego (53), Baltimore (52), Houston (50), Oakland (50) …
… And then there were the Dodgers, clocking in at an even 50 players. It was a combination of trades and injuries that brought the Dodgers to 50, all of which factored into their falling short of the playoffs, and left several players hungry for a big bounceback in 2013.
Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Ted Lilly are coming back from surgery. Chad Billingsley is coming back from an injury, at least the team hopes. Juan Uribe is Juan Uribe.
After months of waiting, the Dodgers finally shut down Ted Lilly for the season Friday. The 36-year-old pitcher will have arthroscopic surgery on his left (throwing) shoulder a week from today; the surgery will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
Head athletic trainer Sue Falsone said that, barring any unexpected discoveries, Lilly will be able to resume throwing in January and can begin his spring training program on time.
“Ideally it is a simple cleanup procedure,” Falsone said. “Obviously the doctor won’t exactly know what he will or will not do until he gets inside the joint, but that’s the plan as of now.”
Not that it needs much help, but the Dodgers’ bullpen is about to get bigger.
Left-hander Scott Elbert, on the disabled list since Aug. 29 with inflammation in his left elbow, is scheduled to throw a simulated game tomorrow. It could be the final tuneup he needs before returning to action.
“If he’s good,” manager Don Mattingly said, “we’ll probably roll with him.”
Randy Choate and Paco Rodriguez are currently the only healthy left-handers in the Dodger bullpen. Choate has appeared in 26 of the Dodgers’ 44 games since he arrived in a trade with Miami, which projects to a 96-game pace over a full season. That’s not grounds for overuse when you’re only facing one or two batters a game, but having another veteran left-hander to complement the rookie Rodriguez will only benefit Choate.
Kenley Jansen, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet with a doctor tomorrow to get “final clearance” to resume practicing with the team. Because he’s been taking prescription blood thinners, Jansen has been unable to take the field –anywhere he could be struck by a batted ball. He could pitch as early as Tuesday in Washington.
The news was bad (again) for left-hander Ted Lilly, whose simulated game Thursday was cancelled. He’s expected to meet with a doctor tonight. It’s unclear what the medical reason was but Mattingly said that it’s “not necessarily a setback.” Lilly hasn’t pitched since May 23.
In their last eight innings dating to Saturday, Dodger relievers have not allowed a run.
Ted Lilly will throw a simulated 15-pitch inning Wednesday as the left-hander continues to push for a return before the end of the season. Lilly has been on the disabled list since May 24, alternately bothered by shoulder and back injuries, and hasn’t pitched in a rehabilitation game since Aug. 16.
Don Mattingly said he would welcome Lilly back this season as a reliever, as the Dodgers only have one healthy left-hander in their bullpen, Randy Choate. Scott Elbert is also on the disabled list with inflammation in his left elbow.
Since Lilly has had numerous setbacks, it may take more than a couple days to know how much progress he’s actually made.
Two injured pitchers nudged forward in their recoveries Sunday:
Chad Billingsley is considering having a second platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection in his right elbow. Manager Don Mattingly said that the right-hander “seemed a little bit optimistic,” but cautioned that there is still no timetable for Billingsley to resume throwing because he isn’t pain-free.
Ted Lilly, meanwhile, threw 20 pitches off the bullpen mound Saturday and reported no pain afterward. Lilly’s next step has yet to be determined, though Mattingly mentioned the possibility of a simulated game if Lilly continues to throw without pain. “I’m not quite sure where all this is going,” Mattingly said. “His shoulder feels good … his back feels better.”