The injury bug has hit the Los Angeles Dodgers already this season. After riddling many of their key players last season, such as outfielder Andre Ethier and setup pitcher Kenley Jansen, the plague of injuries has already taken a toll on the Dodgers starting rotation this spring.
According to ESPN, Ted Lilly, slated to be the No. 3 starter after his first two seasons in Dodger blue, has been shelved because of a sore neck. Manager Don Mattingly said Lilly would begin the year on the 15-day disabled list.
In Lilly’s place, Chris Capuano has been bumped up to Lilly’s spot. Capuano and his fellow free-agent starting pitcher, Aaron Harang, both have histories of injuries. So, the back end of the Dodgers rotation is looking very fragile already.
With Chad Billingsley’s inconsistency and the uncertainty of the last three pitchers’ health, the Dodgers need to be reassured that Ted Lilly returns only when he is back to full strength.
Lilly, coming off a 12-14 season, is scheduled to miss his first start and return on April 14th against the San Diego Padres at home. Lilly has made 25-plus starts for the last nine years, so his health has held up as he has placed great importance on workmanship. Lilly himself expects to come back strong, but he will be turning 36 this season and neck troubles linger for long periods of time.
Luckily, the depth of Nathan Eovaldi gives the Dodgers one more arm that management would be comfortable trotting out to the mound. Jamey Wright, veteran journeyman reliever, also has experience starting and could be a spot-starter for the Blue Crew. Wright has been fantastic this spring, as has Eovaldi (who will begin 2012 in Double-A), but fans still have reason to worry about the health of the latter side of the rotation.
Harang and Capuano will both be turning 34 this season and have had numerous arm issues, but have maintained their health and looked good so far this spring. Expect the Dodgers to keep Josh Lindblom on the roster along with lefty non-roster invite Scott Rice.
The Dodgers do not need a fifth starter until the 14th, so they can keep some extra pitching depth without sacrificing the offensive opportunities for the last couple bench players. Especially early in the season, position players will need more off days and can use more quality at-bats.
Speaking of the position bench players, the only real injuries that are concerning the squad are with Adam Kennedy and Jerry Hairston Jr. seems to have overcome the shoulder issue, but Kennedy is still working through his right groin pull. Kennedy should be fine to open up the season with the big-league squad, but is something to keep an eye on.
Kennedy, at age 36, is not the young, speedy second baseman he was with the Angels about a decade ago. He, along with the older veterans on the bench such as catcher Matt Treanor and fellow utility man Hairston Jr. need to maintain their health as insurance for the likes of Mark Ellis and Juan Uribe.
For the most part, the Dodgers have been extremely lucky this spring so far. As the Dodgers wrap up camp and come back to Los Angeles, the team seems to be taking shape closely to how GM Ned Colletti set it up. The only thing will be staying healthy, which the Dodgers rarely manage to do. Hopefully new ownership will be able to put some money into the roster to maintain the talent if injuries weaken the roster.