How is Matt Kemp's shoulder doing these days?
For a team expected to contend for a World Series championship, the Los Angeles Dodgers have several injury concerns to deal with.
Of course, the Dodgers made significant additions with their vastly expanded payroll over the past six months, including first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and pitcher Zack Greinke.
But the team's two best players, center fielder Matt Kemp and pitcher Clayton Kershaw, are among the Dodgers players coming off injuries going back to last season. Kemp required surgery on his left shoulder during the offseason.
Where do the Dodgers' injured players stand, with two weeks remaining before the team reports to spring training in Glendale, Ariz.? Here is the latest on the club's six most notable injuries going into the 2013 season.
Note: This list does not include left-hander Ted Lilly, who is recovering from shoulder surgery performed last September. Though he is expected to be ready for spring training, there have been no recent reports on his progress. If information becomes available, this article will be updated accordingly.
The most recent injury news coming from the Los Angeles Dodgers concerns catcher A.J. Ellis.
In early October, Ellis had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus and clear away some dead tissue in his left knee.
Ellis rehabbed his knee over the winter with the Milwaukee Brewers training staff, since Wisconsin is his offseason home. He appears to have made a complete recovery.
According to the Los Angeles Times' Steve Dilbeck, Ellis is already participating in full catching drills and blocking balls in the dirt. Knowing he will be the starting catcher this year has made a difference in his offseason workouts, knowing he has to endure the long season.
Ellis had a breakout season for the Dodgers in 2012, compiling a triple-slash average of .270/.373/.414 with 13 home runs and 52 RBI. That .373 on-base percentage ranked seventh among National League hitters.
The Dodgers appeared to have the two left-handers needed for their bullpen, joining the newly signed J.P. Howell with Scott Elbert.
However, general manager Ned Colletti will likely make finding another lefty reliever a priority after the news that Elbert required a second surgical procedure on his pitching elbow and will miss Opening Day.
As the Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez reported, Elbert already had elbow surgery in September, which ended his season prematurely. Yet four months later, he had to go under the knife again after feeling pain during his winter throwing program.
Elbert is projected to begin throwing in March, but really won't be doing much more than playing catch at that point. No word on when exactly Elbert will return, but if all goes well in his recovery, it appears he'll be ready in April.
Last season, Elbert compiled a 2.20 ERA in 43 appearances for the Dodgers. He struck out 29 batters in 32.2 innings.
Matt Kemp underwent surgery on his left shoulder in October. He injured the shoulder in late August, crashing into a wall trying to make a catch against the Colorado Rockies.
Unfortunately for Kemp, the damage discovered was worse than originally believed. He had a torn labrum that needed to be repaired.
"I wish it just would have been a cleanup and taken six weeks," Kemp told ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon. "They actually had to go repair some things."
Kemp was expected to be ready for baseball drills and swinging a bat in January, however, and it appears he's on that timetable. The Dodgers center fielder told MLB.com's Ken Gurnick that he's hitting off a tee and the shoulder is still sore.
"I'm sure when I come to Spring Training there will be some limits put on me for some things," Kemp said to Gurnick. "I'm not trying to be 100 percent for the first game of Spring Training. I'm trying to be 100 percent for the first game of the season."
Kemp was limited to 106 games last year, hitting .303 with a .906 OPS, 23 home runs and 69 RBI.
Carl Crawford is expected to the Dodgers' starting left fielder, but it's uncertain whether or not he'll be ready for Opening Day. He's recovering from Tommy John surgery performed in late August.
But according to ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon, Dodgers president Stan Kasten told a local radio show that a positive medical report on Crawford has him confident that Crawford will be in left field when the team opens the season on April 1.
Kasten added that Crawford has lost 10 pounds since last season and is beginning to throw.
"He sounds pretty confident," Mattingly told Gurnick. "He's been working really hard, but he's had to go slow. In the next 30 days, as he starts doing more baseball stuff, he'll get a better feel for what he can do. He's still in rehab mode. I'm sure he's going to be a little behind [in] throwing."
Can Crawford be the player he was before his two lost seasons with the Boston Red Sox? In his final year with the Tampa Bay Rays, Crawford hit .307 with an .851 OPS. He compiled 30 doubles, 13 triples, 19 home runs, 90 RBI and 47 stolen bases.
While participating in the Dodgers' winter caravan, pitcher Clayton Kershaw told reporters that the right hip injury which gave him problems last September hasn't been an issue during the offseason.
"It was never a problem for me," said Kershaw, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez.
Considering his performance, it's kind of difficult to argue with Kershaw on that point. He led the NL with a 2.53 ERA and 1.02 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched). The left-hander also allowed an opponents' batting average of .210, the second-best mark in the league.
Kershaw finished second among NL starting pitchers with 229 strikeouts and 227.2 innings pitched.
With the exception of exercises geared to strengthening his hip, Kershaw says his offseason routine has been no different than in previous years.
Hernandez reports that the Dodgers are pleased enough with his condition that the team wants to discuss a contract extension with Kershaw during spring training.
Was it a good idea for Chad Billingsley not to have reconstructive surgery to repair a partially torn ligament in his right elbow?
Having Tommy John surgery would have kept Billingsley out for all of the 2013 season. But the 28-year-old opted for platelet-rich plasma injections, according to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick, along with rest and rehabilitation instead.
The Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez reported that Billingsley threw to hitters in late October for two innings and was able to throw all of his pitches. That would make it seem that his elbow is healing and Billingsley is still on track to be available when the Dodgers open the season.
But as Mike Petriello explains at Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness, history is not on Billingsley's side when it comes to trying to let a torn elbow ligament heal by itself. The ulnar collateral ligament never completely heals on its own. Without surgery, it's "basically a ticking time bomb.”
That's not to say Billingsley can't strengthen the elbow enough to compensate for the weakened ligament, however. Given his progress during the offseason, his chances of success seem promising.
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