Like the regular baseball season, Spring Training cannot go completely smooth without some sort of player injuries popping up. Usually a lot of the early injuries are due to players trying too much too soon. This is what probably happened to Yasiel Puig, who is currently on a limited throwing program due to shoulder inflammation. While some of the prospects and NRIs battling for those last coveted spots may have more of a reason to come out of the gates ablaze, the regular starters should instead pace themselves and work up their stamina and strength.
Even though the first Spring Training game is still a week away, there has been some injuries to report out of Camelback Ranch unfortunately. The first one I heard about was Zach Lee‘s lat strain which he suffered during a mini pitching camp two weeks prior to arriving to Arizona. Don Mattingly said on Wednesday that Zach Lee would most likely return to the mound on Thursday. Lee, who is not on the 40-man roster, is working to make the team out of camp. After the Dodgers signed Paul Maholm to a Major League deal, Lee now is in line in back of Maholm and Josh Beckett who both seem to be the first choices to pitch out of the fifth rotation spot.
Josh Beckett threw batting practice on Wednesday, and his rehab seems to be going better than I anticipated so far. Maholm is the only starting pitcher not to face live hitters yet, but he is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Thursday. Maholm had some elbow issues last September when he was with the Braves. Beckett said he “felt really good today.” He said he was “excited” after his pitching session, and once he left the mound he had Sandy Koufax waiting for him. Koufax has worked with Beckett for a long time, and I’m sure offered much words of wisdom and pitching expertise to the veteran right-hander. Beckett, who is looking to rebound after having one of his ribs removed to combat thoracic outlet syndrome, hasn’t had any setbacks that we know of so far.
It was also revealed recently that reliever Brandon League is also suffering from a lat strain. League threw a bullpen session on Wednesday, but was cautious. He reported no discomfort, and he is set to throw another bullpen session on Friday before moving on to pitching to live hitters. His strain could be due to the fact that he threw eight bullpen sessions before arriving to Camelback Ranch which is more than usual for him. He said it was in anticipation of the shortened schedule in Arizona this Spring which is another added element which could be pushing players a bit too much too fast this year.
Yimi Garcia has a bruised right kneecap, and the reliever resumed playing catch on Wednesday. No surgery is deemed necessary, and he will slowly work his way back.
Onelki Garcia, a left-hander, is rehabbing after having to undergo two surgeries this offseason. He had to have surgery on his left elbow to remove a bone spur back in November, and last month he had arthroscopic knee surgery to repair torn cartilage. The 24-year old Cuban pitcher is now throwing off flat ground.
Tim Federowicz felt tightness in his side while participating in blocking drills, and he was limited during workouts on Tuesday.
By Wednesday he was back to a full workout mode.
Chad Billingsley‘s progress continues to be good news. He threw 45 pitches off a mound on Sunday and reached 80-85 mph. He will add breaking pitches to the mix very soon.
Matt Kemp has been taking batting practice and fielding grounders, but he still isn’t allowed to run outdoors. Even Mattingly has no idea what the timetable on Kemp’s ankle is. Kemp’s ankle must be monitored by MRI scans before he is cleared to run on his surgically repaired ankle bone. It is becoming increasingly clear that Matt Kemp may not even play a game in center field this Spring, and probably will not be ready by Opening Day. At this point, I just want him to return when he truly is 100% healthy, so if that takes a month or two or more than so be it. We’ve all read the statement Matt Kemp said to the media about not wanting to be a fourth outfielder. Of course he’s going to say that, but until he’s healthy and playing with at least a glimmer of his old self in his game I’m not sure I can believe his declaration. When he can work himself back into the player he once was with some continuity then he surely would get the starting center field job back then and there. I really do like Matt Kemp, but sometimes his actions don’t speak louder than his words.
Spring injuries may happen at camp, or they may be lingering injuries the player brings with him to camp. The nagging strains and sore muscles could be remnants of past injuries, the burn of Spring Training workouts after a long offseason, or just normally possible baseball injuries that often occur during the regular season. Some Dodgers like Chad Billingsley, Scott Elbert, Matt Kemp, Josh Beckett, and Onelki Garcia have some bigger mountains to climb this Spring. Other strains and pains are either minor ones, or if serious a player may have to rehab during Spring Training and fall behind of his teammates.
Spring Injuries both new and of those rehabbing past injuries play an important part of the roster creation for Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly. Looking at different configurations with different players on the field is an integral part of Spring Training not only for the players but also the management. It is such a useful time to see the entirety of the 40-man roster and beyond. Surprise performances may win a non-roster player a ticket to the big club on Opening Day (you never know, it has happened). Yet with this shortened Spring schedule, all this fine tuning, experimenting, try-outs, and practicing will have to be done much sooner since the Dodgers will be boarding a plane to Australia in just over a month from now.