It is amazing that the Dodgers are still five games above .500 and within one game of a playoff spot considering how injury has decimated this team over the course of the season. Every Major League baseball team is hit by injury at some point in the season. It’s inevitable and unavoidable. The season is long and grueling. Pitchers are especially prone to injury, and the Dodgers pitching squad was hit particularly hard this year. It’s extremely difficult to win when your best player (Matt Kemp) is disabled for a large chunk of the season, and your ace pitcher (Clayton Kershaw) is unable to pitch down the stretch in a pennant race due to potential season-ending surgery. The Dodgers have instead looked to their minor league system as they dug deep to fill in the holes this year. The unsung heroes were not the Kemps or Kershaws this season, but instead the unlikely heroes were career-minor leaguers who fought hard and long to finally get the chance to play in the big leagues. If it weren’t for the injuries which befell Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon, Justin Sellers, and Jerry Hairston Jr., we would not have experienced the first half diligence of Elian Herrera and the frenzy surrounding fan favorite Luis “Cochito” Cruz. Sometimes in baseball the best stories are outside of the box score.
The Dodgers began the season with two incredible months. Matt Kemp had the best April of any player that I can remember, and the Dodgers were leading the Majors in victories. Then on May 15th, the trajectory of the season would be changed for good. Matt Kemp was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain. Kemp had strained his hamstring at Wrigley Field in Chicago after trying to beat out a play at first base. The Dodgers, led by their never-give-up attitude, did well to stay afloat while their superstar center fielder was on the mend. But alas, Matt Kemp would end up reinjuring his hamstring and landing back on the DL on May 31st. He wouldn’t return until after the All-Star Break. Already in April, the Dodgers had placed Ted Lilly on the DL with neck stiffness, Todd Coffey was DL’d with right knee inflammation, and Matt Guerrier was battling right elbow tendinitis.
In May the Dodgers were hit by the curse of the hamstring. They lost Juan Rivera with a torn left hamstring, which he recovered from surprisingly quicker than expected. More hamstring problems continued for the Dodgers, and Jerry Hairston Jr. spent his first stint on the DL this season for a strained left hamstring. The slew of injuries in May was unbelievable. Juan Uribe also had to be placed on the DL with left wrist problems, Mark Ellis almost lost his leg to a freak injury after a take-out slide at second base, Justin Sellers was lost for the season after suffering a bulging disc in his lower back. Sellers had made a highlight reel catch landing over the fence in foul territory which injured his back. Sellers subsequently had to undergo treatment and ultimately succumbed to back surgery. Ted Lilly was placed on the DL a second time due to shoulder inflammation.
By June 4th, Juan Rivera was reactivated after his torn hamstring was healed, but more injuries would follow. Javy Guerra went down with right knee inflammation stemming from when he was hit in the face with a Brian McCann line drive. Javy twisted his knee in the process, and he eventually had to have surgery on his knee later in the season.
In July, Todd Coffey was placed on the DL for the second time in the season for right elbow soreness. We would sadly discover that Coffey would need to undergo
Tommy John surgery thus ending his first season with the Dodgers abruptly. Coffey is currently rehabbing from a successful operation. Then with Matt Kemp still out, Andre Ethier strained his left oblique forcing the Dodgers to also send the second part of their dynamic duo to the DL. But that wasn’t the end of the injury curse, no not at all. Dee Gordon then tore the ligament on his right thumb while sliding head first into the bag, and he had to be placed on the DL on July 5th before having surgery.
Finally after the All-Star Break, both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier were reactivated from the 15-day DL. Later in the month, Chad Billingsley landed on the DL with right elbow inflammation. Adam Kennedy was DL’d for a right groin strain. Scott Elbert also was disabled with left elbow inflammation. It seemed like the Dodgers never recovered from that hobbling May as the injuries and DL trips began to take their toll on the season.
The Dodgers lost Jerry Hairston Jr. for the season in August, and he just recently underwent hip surgery for a labrum tear (which is a similar injury to what Clayton Kershaw reportedly has). JHair’s absence was a big loss to the Dodgers, and the utility infielder finished with a .273 batting average with 4 homeruns and 26 RBIs in 78 games in his first year with the Dodgers. We will not forget his fortitude and integral part of this season at a time when injury weakened the infield considerably and Juan Uribe existed. By the end of August, Chad Billingsley, who had pitched so well after returning from his first stint on the DL, was lost for the season with a partially torn UCL. Billingsley is undergoing treatment including receiving plasma rich injections in his elbow. Hopefully Bills can heal his elbow without succumbing to Tommy John surgery this offseason. Scott Elbert was also lost for the season with left elbow pain as well. Elbert, who was supposed to return this week, will instead undergo surgery to clean up his elbow.
n this current month of September, we lost another pitcher as Javy Guerra was placed on the DL once again. This time it was for a torn left oblique. He is currently rehabbing in Arizona. Adam Kennedy’s groin injury flared up again, and he left the season with a swan song homerun in San Francisco. We finally regained Dee Gordon who was activated after rehabbing with the Albuquerque Isotopes.
As of right now, the Dodgers have ten players on the 60-day DL: Chad Billingsley, Todd Coffey, Blake Hawksworth, Ted Lilly, Chris Withrow, Jerry Hairston, Adam Kennedy, Justin Sellers, Carl Crawford, and Alfredo Silverio.
With the plethora of injuries this season, it is no wonder that the Dodgers weren’t able to make a run at the division. The mix of DL trips combined with large trades made this team in constant flux. Perhaps the Dodgers can lick their wounds this winter, and come back healthy and raring to go in 2013. Or will the plague of injury spill over in 2013? Clayton Kershaw’s hip injury could mean surgery which preludes three to five months of rehab. We could lose our left-handed ace until mid-May. It is also unclear to whether Todd Coffey will return to the Dodgers after he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and Carl Crawford was already on the 60-day DL when the Dodgers acquired him via trade with Boston. Crawford won’t need as much time in rehab before returning to the field after Tommy John surgery since he is a position player. Kenley Jansen will also undergo a heart procedure in the offseason to correct his irregular heartbeat. The winter will be a time for recovery, regrouping, and release. The Dodgers need to let go of the players who aren’t producing results, and those who do produce need to focus on coming back healthy for Spring 2013.