As it stands now, injuries aren’t an overwhelming concern for the Dodgers as Opening Day approaches; however, there are three big players who could be at risk at missing the beginning of the season should they fail to make progress.
Probably the least of the worries right now is veteran catcher Russell Martin. The 36-year-old veteran has been experiencing bouts of back soreness after over exerting himself in the batting cage last week, but it isn’t believed to be overly serious. Originally, he was slated to return in Wednesday’s matchup against the Indians, but trainers have remained extra-cautious, saying Martin will probably appear over the coming weekend.
“It’s getting better,” manager Dave Roberts said of Martin’s back on Monday. “It’s just not at the point to get him out there. I’m not worried about him receiving. The at-bats, we can accrue at-bats. He hasn’t missed as much as you think.”
As far as players go on the 40-man roster, Rocky Gale has been seeing plenty of action lately. Regarding the youngsters, Will Smith seems to be progressing nicely and appears to be ahead of Keibert Ruiz on the depth chart, despite not yet being a member of the 40-man. The most viable option, though, may be Josh Thole. The 32-year-old journeyman has caught 439 big league games and was primarily acquired to serve as depth beyond Martin. Thole is not on the 40-man.
There still seems to be a bit of speculation swirling around shortstop Corey Seager. He was originally scheduled to make four or plate appearances on Monday, but those plans have been pushed back until later in the week.
Roberts downplayed the decision after he removed Seager from the lineup, noting that it was for “no reason other than that we have a B-game Thursday and that he was going to get some ABs in that game.”
Seager, who is recovering from hip and elbow surgeries, has not been cleared to play defense at this point. Nevertheless, most people close to the club still expect him to be ready for Opening Day.
Staff ace Clayton Kershaw has been back and forth in his recovery from a problematic throwing shoulder. Indeed, Roberts admitted on Monday that the three-time Cy Young winner could be in jeopardy of missing his ninth consecutive Opening Day start. Yet, later in the day, Roberts acknowledged that Kersh was “pretty excited” about the way he felt after his workout.
“I didn’t see him throw, but I talked to him when he came off the field and he was pretty excited. He was a little bit more than encouraged. He was excited, so that was good thing for us,” Roberts explained.
“The No. 1 thing is for Clayton to be ready and confident mentally and physically.”
Phenom Walker Buehler, who was expected to be handled with care during the early part of the spring, threw his first bullpen session on Sunday. Roberts stated that he expects Buehler to be ready for the start of the season, despite the righty still not being scheduled for a Cactus League appearance.
Buehler told reporters on Monday that his arm feels great.
“I’m confident I’ll be ready to go,” Buehler said. “The way that I throw the ball, I feel that I can get going pretty quick, and once I get into games is all relative at some point. I felt good. The velocity is fine. I’m right where I need to be.”