(Photo Credit: Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
As the seconds tick closer to the non-waiver trade deadline on August 1, without even having to pick up the phone or sacrifice a top prospect, the Dodgers may receive their own instant infusion of talent in the form of several key players returning from the disabled list.
With the club opting to utilize three different center fielders to open the second half in the Arizona series, the Dodgers will welcome back Joc Pederson as a steady presence against righty pitching on Tuesday when they begin a three-game series against the Nationals.
Although he’s only hitting .236/.328/.476, Pederson’s 13 home runs are tied for third most on the Dodgers this season. He has 33 RBI and the second-best slugging percentage among the regulars on the squad at .476, trailing only Corey Seager, who leads the way at.518.
If his approach at the dish during his rehab stint with Oklahoma City is any indication what to expect upon his return, Pederson just may slide into an immediate offensive groove.
After a very productive outing in a simulated game session over the weekend, Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw‘s return to the rotation still remains undecided. Manager Dave Roberts revealed to the media on Tuesday afternoon that Kershaw began to feel pain in his lower back after the sim game, and will be shut down completely until the pain subsides. Kersh is scheduled to undergo another exam in the next 24 hours.
“After the simulated game, we’re just making sure he feels his body feels 100 percent ready to come back because when he does come back, we want him to stay healthy,” Roberts said. “That’s why we’re being extra cautious as we are with all of our players. A couple, two, three days, to see how his body responds, and how he feels, will give us a lot more clarity. Right now, as we’ve been, we’re reluctant to put any return date for Clayton. You have to defer to his health, obviously.”
Kershaw’s last start was against the Pirates on June 26, and he was subsequently placed on the disabled list on July 1 after being diagnosed with a disc herniation.
Although a recent scan of Andre Ethier’s fractured tibia showed that the bone is still not healed, the team has not ruled out the 34-year-old outfielder returning to the majors at some point during the stretch run.
“The fracture is not completely healed,” Roberts said in regards to Ethier’s latest tests. “But it’s healed enough where we feel Andre, to his tolerance, can continue to progress with baseball activities. At this point, we’re going to monitor him and see where it takes us.”
After struggling with a severe biceps injury since the beginning of April, Dodgers’ reliever Yimi Garcia is expected to make his first rehab appearance with High-A Rancho Cucamonga sometime this week.
Garcia’s placement upon completion of his rehab work will depend on his performance as well as the Dodgers’ bullpen needs at that particular point in time.
The same day that Kershaw threw 60 pitches in his simulated game last weekend, lefty starter Alex Wood took the mound at threw 40 pitches with several different hitters from the Quakes’ squad present in the batter’s box.
Wood is slowly rebuilding his strength following a month-long shutdown period, progressing from long toss to mound work and currently to live game sessions. He appears to be inching close a minor league rehab assignment, but his eventual stint in the minors figures to be a lengthy one given the extended layoff.
Southpaw Brett Anderson also showed steady improvement in his recovery after throwing two innings in a simulated game on Monday.
Even when healthy, it’s unclear what role Anderson will have with the team given the Dodgers’ depth in the rotation. The veteran starter is hoping to return in mid-August, but a clearer timetable should emerge as he closes in on a rehab assignment.
Not including any potential deals being completed before the trade deadline, if all the starters on the 40-man roster can stay healthy, the Dodgers would have in the neighborhood of seven different veteran pitchers to choose from when considering a rotation for the stretch run in late August and September.
Finally, in news released early Tuesday afternoon, the Dodgers placed both right-handed pitcher Casey Fien (retroactive to July 17) and left-handed pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu (retroactive to July 9) on the 15-day disabled list with elbow tendonitis.
Ryu, 29, made one start for Los Angeles after being reinstated from the 60-day disabled list (left shoulder surgery) on July 7, allowing six runs on eight hits in 4.2 innings against the Padres in his first start since September 12, 2014.
Fien, 32, has gone 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA (10 ER/22.0 IP) in 21 relief appearances for the Dodgers this year after being claimed from the Minnesota Twins on May 7.
Pederson was activated from the 15-day disabled list to fill one spot, while lefty reliever Luis Avilan was recalled from OKC to fill the other.