You wouldn’t know it by the way the team is playing, but with 11 players listed on the disabled list, the Dodgers now have more injured players than they’ve had all year. And with nine members currently on the shelf, the pitching staff is far and away the most victimized part of the roster.
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reported yesterday that of the nine injured pitchers, seven are suffering ailments related to the shoulder or the biceps. Righty reliever Pedro Baez was the latest to fall victim to such an epidemic as he was placed on the 10-day disabled list before Friday’s opener against the Giants with a bout of biceps tendinitis.
Nevertheless, better health appears to be on the horizon. But whether or not the team can maintain a high level of wellness—and win games while doing it—remains to be seen. Starting on Monday against the Cubs, a surplus of players may start being reinstated from the disabled list.
Second baseman Chase Utley will likely be the first of those players. The veteran has been on the DL since May 30 with a left thumb sprain, but he appeared to be near 100% while taking batting practice on Wednesday before a contest against the Rangers. There’s no reason not to believe he’ll be activated before the opener in Chicago.
Southpaw starter Rich Hill, who is coming off an impressive rehab start with Rancho on Thursday, is set to return to the mound on Tuesday. He’s recovering from a blister that has sidelined him since May 20. In the outing against Lake Elsinore, he gave up two runs—both unearned—and four hits, striking out 10 and walking none in 4 2/3 innings.
“It felt great. It felt normal,” Hill told reporters. “I would say my curve ball was probably the best it’s been in three years. My fastball is as good as it was in ’16 and last year. We made a few mechanical, small changes that made huge differences with the ball coming out of my hand the way that I want it to.”
Furthermore, with both skipper Dave Roberts and boss Andrew Friedman in attendance, staff ace Clayton Kershaw completed a 55-pitch session on Friday that also included a simulated inning where he sat for a short period of time before he resumed throwing. One of the biggest concerns with Kersh’s back injury was his endurance across not just a high pitch count, but rather with the up-and-down nature of pitching multiple innings. The team seemed happy with his performance after his latest endeavor, and thinking conservatively, it’s not out of the question for fans to expect a return sometime in early July.
“A major league start is not the next step,” Roberts explained about Kershaw’s progress. “Making sure Kershaw is okay with next step being either a sim game or a rehab assignment.”
It’s still foggy as to when when rookie right-hander Walker Buehler, who was placed on the 10-day DL with a rib injury on June 9, will return to the big league rotation.
“Walker is feeling better with time,” Roberts added. “He’s playing catch. But as far as a timetable, when he’ll make a start again for us, I’m not certain.”
Hyun-Jin Ryu threw off a bullpen mound again on Tuesday and appears to be progressing nicely. This is an encouraging step for the lefty, who has been on the shelf since May 3 with a severe left groin injury. While he’s eligible to come off the 60-day DL on July 2, it’s certainly not an accurate timetable, as the club will undoubtedly proceed very slowly with the final stages of his recovery process.
While there have been some reports that lefty Julio Urias could conceivably return sometime after the All-Star break, there’s still a long way to go in his recovery. Even though he began throwing off a mound in late May, Urias will likely require a long rehab stint in the upper levels of the minors and will likely be optioned to Triple-A initially when he is activated from the 60-day disabled list. If there’s a need in the rotation, realistically, the lefty could be starting games in late August, if all parts of his recovery plan go perfectly.
Lefty reliever Tony Cingrani, who has been inactive since June 7 with a rotator cuff strain, may also be available for the beginning of next week’s road trip.