Injured Dodger starting pitcher Eric Stults was a pleasant surprise to find in the home-team clubhouse on Tuesday. He was just back from his appearance the night before with the Dodgers' Single-A Inland Empire 66ers squad.
Stults was happy with his most recent start, going 4.1 innings, throwing 59 pitches. He struck out three of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes while surrendering only two hits and one unearned run. Stults was not involved in the decision, a 6-5 victory by the 66ers, who scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
After the first inning, he was very pleased with his pitch location. He realizes he will need to be able to deliver at least 90 pitches before being in a position to help the big club.
The injury to his pitching thumb, which occurred while making an off-balance throw on a tapper in which he nipped the batter at first, is taking a long time to heal. The Dodger training staff has been telling Stults it will bother him for a while, but the 6'0" lefty is anxious to get back on the mound. I pointed out that he at least made the play, but hindsight led Stults to wish he hadn't tried to make that particular play, given the cost.
He realizes the Dodgers could use his help in filling out the rotation, and he's frustrated that the last bit of swelling has lingered so long.
Having injured my elbow recently and going through some of the same issues, I know the ligament injury in an often-flexed joint will linger longer since it does not get much of a chance to heal. Think how often you flex your thumb in everyday tasks; you can get a better understanding of why Stults has been sidelined for so long.
Stults indicated the problem isn't pain but the affect his thumb has on pitch location.
He also commented on the effect Manny Ramirez had on the Inland Empire players, boosting the excitement level. Looking back to when he was playing at that level, Stults remembered how any major league player sharing the minor league clubhouse, while on injury rehab, gets serious attention from the other players. They want to see how they go about their business, how it's done by the folks in the show.