We say it all the time, but considering how badly the injury bug has bitten the Dodgers so far this season, it’s tough to comprehend how they’re hanging right at the top of the National League West just days before the 2018 All-Star break.
The latest blow came to right fielder Yasiel Puig when he aggravated his oblique during a fifth-inning plate appearance against the Angels on Sunday. The official diagnosis was a strain, and early guesstimates on a return are hovering around the “several week” range.
“It’s going to be a few weeks,” skipper Dave Roberts said before the series opener at San Diego on Monday. “With the time we have left in the season, we have to be very careful. Otherwise it can come back to bite you at an important time. So we are going to be patient.”
Taking Puig’s spot on the active roster is Andrew Toles, who was hitting .324 for Triple-A Oklahoma City when he was recalled. In Monday’s game at San Diego, Tolesy got the starting nod in center field and promptly went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, two runs scored and two RBI. And the beautiful thing is that he can handle all three outfield spots with ease, providing the club with an extra dose of versatility when needed.
But while some fans are excited by the return of Toles, the bullpen has caused plenty of concern among many followers of the team. As it stands now, three players who were members of the Opening Day relief corps—Pedro Baez, Josh Fields and Tony Cingrani—are still on the 10-day disabled list with varying degrees of injuries.
Cingrani, who has been on the DL for more than a month with rotator cuff problems, is progressing; however, he’s still at the spring training facility at Camelback Ranch rehabbing. Baez and Fields are also on throwing programs in Arizona and may actually make appearances soon for the Arizona League Dodgers in the rookie summer league.
To make matters worse, right-handed reliever Yimi Garcia was placed on the 10-day disabled list last Saturday with right forearm inflammation. Garcia had been dealing with the issue for more than a week and went through tests prior to Saturday’s game against the Angels, prompting the move to the disabled list. The severity of the injury remains unclear, but the 27-year-old may be sidelined for most of July.
With all these relievers on the shelf, there seemingly has been a bigger push for the front office group to pursue one or more relief additions before the non-waiver trade deadline passes at the end of the month. Currently, Pat Venditte, Dylan Floro and JT Chargois are filling in the gaps in the big league bullpen.
In a bit of good news, righty Walker Buehler reported having no complications after throwing a five-inning simulated game on Sunday. Roberts said Buehler will start one of next weekend’s games against the Angels at Dodger Stadium.
“I thought he threw the ball really well,” Roberts explained. “He pitched well in Rancho, efficient. Today, facing big league hitters, built him up. The stuff was sharp. I think I heard he touched 97, so the velo was good. He’ll throw a ‘pen Wednesday and then we’ve got to figure out where we pencil him in. He will start before the All-Star break.”
Buehlers return, coupled with Kenta Maeda‘s reinstatement from the paternity list, could afford the Dodgers the luxury of using a six-man rotation through the All-Star break, providing the starting crew a bit of relief during the hot, demanding summer months.
Additionally, southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu could make it to Camelback in time to throw alongside Cingrani, Fields and Baez. Ryu has been sidelined since May 3 with a sever left-groin strain.
Julio Urias has been throwing monitored bullpens as well, as his latest came on July 4 when his fastball was clocked as high as 91 MPH. It’s certainly a good sign that its velocity continues to climb, although he’s still nowhere near his former self. Reportedly, the 21-year-old lefty could be making rehab appearances in late July, conceivably putting an August return within reach.
There have been no updates regarding righty swing man Tom Koehler, who was shut down in the middle of June after experiencing complications in his throwing program.
At the moment, the Dodgers have 11 players listed on the big league squad’s disabled list.