Dodgers Injury Notes: Hill, Turner, Forsythe, Koehler & More

While there hasn’t been an overwhelming number of injuries so far this season, there have been enough to create a hindrance in some of the key areas of the Dodgers roster, perhaps even having an effect on the club’s overall performance.

The biggest blow of spring camp was undoubtedly the broken wrist of third baseman Justin Turner. The latest news on JT is that he still hasn’t begun to swing a bat, despite several reports over the weekend suggesting otherwise. However, the 33-year-old infielder is still participating in a few baseball activities, including an active regimen of throwing. He still has a teammate catch for him when he throws, to keep any pressure off his glove hand. Currently, the teammate normally catching for him is Logan Forsythe, who can’t throw yet because of his shoulder.

“It’s getting better every day and it’s been a good week as far as range of motion and pain tolerance, but not there yet,” Turner told reporters with a hint of sarcasm. “When I hit a ball off a tee, I’ll be the first one to stand here and let you guys know. I’ll send a tweet and tag you guys. Maybe you can get some followers.”

Speaking of Forsythe, he’s apparently been progressing with his inflamed shoulder, as he was recently seen taking dry swings in the batting cage. Additionally, skipper Dave Roberts hinted over the weekend that Forsythe may begin throwing over the next few days. Athough the 31-year-old Memphis native is eligible to come of the disabled list on April 25, the club has still yet to reveal a firm timetable for a return.

Rich Hill is also eligible to be reinstated on Wednesday after being placed on the 10-day DL with a cracked fingernail on his middle finger on April 18. The veteran southpaw called the disabled list move “precautionary” from the beginning, and as recently as Friday, told the media that he was fine to pitch.

“I could have pitched tonight,” said Hill. “No issues.”

Still, after the team shifted around the rotation in light of Hill’s absence, there is a need for another starting pitcher in the opener against the Marlins on Monday night. Many pundits have speculated that either Brock Stewart or Walker Buehler will be recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City; however, there still has yet to be a firm decision.

“We’ll know soon enough,” Roberts said over the weekend. “We’ve got a couple of ideas. I can’t say.”

(Update: At 2:00pm on Sunday, the Dodgers announced that Buehler will get the start against the Marlins on Monday)

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In other news, there hasn’t been much information surfacing on the progress of swing man Tom Koehler. During spring training, the right-hander suffered a shoulder injury that was diagnosed as an anterior capsule strain, and while his recovery sounds promising, the team will likely take it very slow in terms of a rehab program.

“The strength is there, the range of motion is great, but they want to make sure when I’m back, I’m back for good, and not just for a couple of weeks,” Koehler said a few weeks back. “It feels good today, but we want to make sure it’s good for the long haul.”

Another righty reliever, 27-year-old Yimi Garcia, has been rehabbing with Oklahoma City and may be available to the big league roster very soon. Garcia has been sidelined all season while working his way back from Tommy John surgery that he underwent back in October of 2016. While this is the final step in his recovery, the Dodgers haven’t specified how many rehab appearances Garcia will make before rejoining the big club, leaving his return date up in the air.

 

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Better 25-Man Roster Option: Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo or Andrew Toles?

Sometimes I think fans get tired of hearing the phrase, “It’s still very early in the season.” Yet as annoying as it may sound, it does have plenty of validity. The MLB schedule is certainly a long one, and the main strategy of a management crew is to have the best possible squad on the field peaking as one unit at the precise moment the playoffs roll around.

And while there’s plenty of time to experiment with different roster and lineup combinations over the course of the journey, there’s still the main premise of putting the best possible team on the field on any given day. And although we are still in April, there may be some roster changes coming soon, if only for the sake of seeing what may click for the club over the long haul.

Change works. Consider the promotions of Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor last April, while recalling the contract selection of Brandon Morrow last June. Not much thought was given to these moves at those times, but the entire trio ended up making huge impacts before the dust settled at the end of the year.

There’s plenty of enhancing to be done to the current 25-man roster, and one of the not-so-obvious areas of the big league squad that could see some fluctuations is the outfield. The spring training battle between Joc Pederson and Andrew Toles seemingly went down to the wire, and while many of the Toles supporters believe he was on the short end of the stick, it’s not hard to figure out why Pederson was ultimately chosen. While Tolesy may indeed have the better set of tools, at this point of their respective careers, Pederson is still the superior defender, which is probably what facilitated the decision for management. Besides, Toles was still considered in recovery from an ACL tear in 2017, and daily reps were believed to have been the best medicine to get him back to normalcy.

Regardless, despite setting the Pacific Coast League on fire for the first few weeks of the season, Toles is on the shelf with a hamstring injury that he suffered on April 14 against New Orleans, and he’ll likely not be taking part in any baseball activities for another week. Even when he feels comfortable running, it may take some time to get back to full speed and re-establish his timing. There’s no rush in the least, as Pederson, despite his lethargic .176/.300/.235 slash line, is capable enough to provide cover in the interim from a defensive standpoint.

Nevertheless, if defensive ability is a huge factor in all the decision making, 21-year-old Alex Verdugo may have the best tools in the whole organization, aside from Yasiel Puig. And the reason I bring this up is that during Puig’s off days, Matt Kemp has been providing cover in right field, obviously because of Pederson’s unfamiliarity with the spot. I’m about the biggest Kemp supporter out there, but while I do believe he’s adequate in either corner spot, there’s no question more runs could be saved defensively with Verdugo in the game.

While most fans already know that Verdugo can capably handle all three outfield spots, there aren’t many who realize the strength of his arm. In impressive fashion, he was tabbed as having the best outfield arm in the PCL by Baseball America for the 2017 season, which I think speaks volumes considering the amount of talent in Triple-A. While Joc may have more savvy and have a better understanding of the potential caroms and ricochets in the Dodger Stadium outfield, I think Verdugo makes up for it with better range and overall quickness.

In 273 AB during his 2017 campaign, Pederson hit .212/.331/.407, which is a few ticks below his career slash line of .222/.345/.435. Heading into spring training each year, there are discussions about how Joc has made new adjustments in his swing mechanics which would conceivably elevate his production. And although 2018 will be only his fourth full year, the final numbers are eerily similar by the end of each campaign. He was demoted at one point last year, and during his minor league stint slashed .167/.247/.306 in 81 plate appearances. He may even have been destined to start the 2018 season at OKC, but his offensive heroics during last year’s postseason, coupled with the strength of his glove, afforded him the benefit of the doubt.

As far as Verdugo goes, he hit an impressive .314/.389/.436 over 433 AB last year at OKC. In comparative conversations alongside Chris Taylor, many pundits view Verdugo as the Dodgers’ center fielder of the future, even though he doesn’t have much of an MLB track record aside from 15 games after rosters expanded last year. But while he doesn’t compare to Joc in the power department, Verdugo almost never strikes out, and has become known as an on-base machine—something that Los Angeles could certainly utilize in their sluggish lineup at the present juncture. He’s capable of stealing bases in the double-digits, and despite his lack of long balls, Verdugo has the strength to muscle a ball to the deep part of the yard, as made evident by his 27 doubles, four triples and six home runs for OKC last year. As far as his ascension goes, he’s accomplished about all there is at Triple-A, and although the daily reps don’t hurt, there’s by no means mandatory.

So, if the entire left-handed hitting trio is healthy, who’s the logical choice? All three have plenty of options on their contracts, so there’s really no issue there. If you ask me, Toles is clearly the top choice from an offensive standpoint, but his defense may be just a little too suspect to consider him as a legitimate, secondary platoon candidate with Taylor, Puig or Kemp. But if the management crew of the Dodgers is indeed weighing defense as it’s top priority—which is what many believe after seeing the many Pederson-for-Kemp late-game substitutions—I think I’d go with Verdugo over Pederson almost any day of the week.

As it stands right now, with a bench that’s already playing short because of an eight-man bullpen, it is really worth having Pederson occupying a valuable 25-man roster spot just to supplant Kemp as a late-inning defensive replacement?

(Follow Dennis on Twitter: @thinkbluepc)

 

Nationals vs. Dodgers Series Preview, Plus Other News and Notes

The Dodgers are looking good, finally. They scored 37 runs in their four-game winning streak, sweeping the San Diego Padres in the process. They are now 8-9 on the season, matching their record at this point last season.

But beating up on the hapless Padres is one thing. Starting on Friday evening, the Washington Nationals come to town. While the Nats are currently in fourth in the NL East with a 9-10 record, they will be rolling out one of the best pitching staffs in the majors to face the Dodgers.

Friday night will feature Clayton Kershaw facing off against Max Scherzer. Rich Hill was slated to start the opener, but was placed on the 10-Day DL Wednesday with inflammation of his left third finger. Per Dodger Insider, it’s the first regular season start between the three-time Cy Young winners in a decade, and the first matchup since the 2016 NLDS. It will also be the 13th all time between three-time Cy Young winners, the latest being between Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux in July of 2006.

Scherzer is having another Cy Young caliber year. He’s 3-1, with a 1.33 ERA and a 0.67 WHIP, having struck out 38 while only scattering 14 hits over 27 innings. Max has allowed two homers and seven runs. When a hot offense runs up against a pitcher who doesn’t allow many runs, something’s got to give.

“Hitting is contagious,” Corey Seager told reporters after the game Wednesday night. “We’re starting to play more like us”. Let’s hope that trend continues against the Nats.

Saturday will see Hyun-Jin Ryu start against Stephen Strasburg. Ryu is coming off a pretty good start against the Padres, where he allowed two runs in six innings, and had nine strikeouts with only one walk. Strasburg is 2-1 with a 3.08 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. Sunday will be Alex Wood going up against Jeremy Hellickson. Wood is also coming off a pretty good start, going 5-1/3 innings, allowing one run and seven strikeouts. Hellickson is 0-0 on the season with a 3.86 ERA in 4.2 innings pitched.

One of the biggest tests will be the Dodgers pitching staff against Bryce Harper. The soon-to-be free agent has been red hot to start the season, with eight home runs already. The one flaw Kershaw has had lately is surrendering the long ball. If he can face Harper with the bases empty, the Dodgers could be in business. Per Joe Davis, Harper is 2-for-23 with 14 strikeouts in his career against Kershaw. Since Harper’s debut, Kershaw has faced the Nationals nine times, is 9-0 with a 0.92 ERA in those games. Friday night should be a good one.

News and Notes:

Max Muncy is quickly becoming a cult favorite among fans. The recent call-up hit his first home run as a Dodger Wednesday night, and made a stellar play at third. He will be starting Friday night against the Nationals, setting up a Max vs. Max showdown.

Yasmani Grandal is quietly having building a successful month amidst an eight-game hitting streak. It was revealed earlier this week that Yaz had been frequently returning to Arizona last season to visit his wife, who was dealing with a high-risk pregnancy. Now that his wife and son are both happy and healthy, the catcher is back feeling himself at the plate. He’s slashing .352/.435/.611/.1.047 with three homers and five doubles.

– Grandal is so hot that he’s currently tied for second in the NL batting leaderboard. Matt Kemp is fifth, slashing .347/.389/.592/.981. Just like we all predicted before the season started.

– But maybe the best thing about the season so far is the unlikely friendship between Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu. They seemingly don’t speak a common language, but are often seen joking and paling around in the dugout. It is exactly what we all deserve.

 

Analyzing a Few of the Dodgers’ Strongest Lineups of the Season

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(Mandatory Credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

On Monday night, the Dodgers scored 10 runs, five days after being beaten by an offensively dominant Oakland team, 16-6. For the first 10-12 games of the season, many asked: “Where oh where is the Dodgers’ offense?”

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Dodgers Place Rich Hill on Disabled List, Recall Adam Liberatore

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(Mandatory Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon recalled left-handed reliever Adam Liberatore from Triple-A Oklahoma City and placed left-hander Rich Hill on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to April 15. The team is describing the injury as finger inflammation; however, Hill himself says the cause is a cracked nail on his middle finger.

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The Whole Kenley Jansen Thing

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(Mandatory Credit: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

While there are numerous factors which have contributed to the substandard performance of the Dodgers during the first three weeks of the season, none appear to be more disconcerting than the effectiveness of team closer Kenley Jansen.

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Dodgers’ Offense Finally Stepping Up, Despite All the Overthinking

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The Dodgers may have recently started to turn a corner, at least in the offense department. Time will tell if they can actually keep it up. The last two pitching performances by Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu have been pretty darn good, too. If Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood can both have good starts after their previous outings which were atrocious, we might be able to see that the Dodgers are indeed finally on an upswing.

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Dodgers vs. Padres Preview: Will the Los Angeles Starting Rotation Find Success?

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While the offense of the Dodgers continues to be highly scrutinized in the early portion of the year, it could be up to the club’s starting rotation to keep the team on the winning track when travelling to San Diego for a three-game set during the early part of the week.

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Dodgers Place Logan Forsythe on Disabled List, Recall Breyvic Valera

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(Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)

The Dodgers on Sunday morning placed infielder Logan Forsythe on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation and recalled infielder Breyvic Valera from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Valera will wear uniform No. 33.

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Some Reasons Why Baseball Is Important & A Few Rules for Being a Good Fan

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(Mandatory Credit: Mike Nelson/EPA)

There’s a lot of panic on Dodger Twitter right now. Understandably so, because the Dodgers are struggling and have been since opening day. Slow starts, April games, too early to be meaningful—all true. But it’s not much fun for Dodgers fans.

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