Thursday, March 29, 2012
Lilly decision coming, plus other stuff
By Tony Jackson
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers likely will decide Friday whether to place veteran left-hander Ted Lilly on the 15-day disabled list to start the season, that decision expected to come after Lilly throws his first bullpen session since he began to suffer from neck stiffness one day last week.
As a result of that issue, Lilly was scratched from his most recent scheduled start Tuesday. While the injury isn't a concern, the fact Lilly's schedule has been thrown off is something of a concern with the team's season opener now just a week away. So far, Lilly hasn't built up his pitch count sufficiently to be ready for the regular season.
As long as Lilly doesn't appear in another Cactus League game, the move to put him on the DL could be backdated to March 26, meaning he would be eligible to pitch on April 10 -- although in that case, he wouldn't pitch until at least April 11 because Clayton Kershaw is slated to pitch the team's home opener on April 10.
Manager Don Mattingly said if Lilly is on the DL, the team will carry an extra reliever until Lilly is activated and that Chris Capuano, who for now is slated to make his first start in that April 11 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, will instead be dropped into what originally was Lilly's spot and pitch on April 7 at San Diego.
In that case, Mattingly said it was possible the Dodgers could go through the other four starters twice before Lilly gets the ball for the first time on April 14 against the Padres at Dodger Stadium. By that time, Mattingly said, Lilly's pitch count could be sufficiently built up with a simulated game and a minor league rehabilitation game.
If Lilly does go on the DL, the most likely reliever to hold down his spot probably is Josh Lindblom because he already is on the 40-man roster, which is full, and still has minor league options, meaning he easily could be sent down when Lilly is ready to be activated.
In the latest indication that he likely will have his contract purchased and be added to both the 40-man and opening-day rosters, Josh Fields played the left field for the first time this spring in Wednesday's Cactus League game, a 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox before 5,091 at Camelback Ranch. Fields normally plays first and third base, but he has made 22 major league appearances in left, most recently in 2007.
Fields is a right-handed hitter with power, which the Dodgers need on their bench. Although he has cooled off in recent days, he got off to a sizzling start this spring and is hitting .300 after going 1-for-2 against the White Sox, the team that originally drafted him in the first round (18th overall) out of Oklahoma State University in 2004.
After the game, Mattingly said he thought Fields looked "OK" in left, but added that if Fields is on the team, he would play there only in emergency situations. Also, Mattingly continued to insist no decision has yet been made as to who will win that final spot, for which Fields and infielders Justin Sellers and Luis Cruz all are competing. Cruz replaced Fields in left to start the sixth inning and played the rest of the game there.
Fields would seem to have an edge, though, because neither Sellers nor Cruz has much in the way of power.
Matt Kemp went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and now has 21 strikeouts in 55 plate appearances this spring, a staggering average of one strikeout every 2.6 times he steps into the box. At the same time, he is hitting .484 (15-for-31) on balls he puts into play.
Mattingly admitted that Kemp's strikeouts are becoming a concern.
"Obviously a little bit," he said. "But it would be more of a concern if Matt wasn't continuing to work and just kind of taking it halfheartedly. I know he is concerned enough that he doesn't feel everything is quite right. There have been times when he has asked me for more at-bats. That (strikeouts) is part of what Matt does."
The Dodgers released non-roster catcher Josh Bard and outfielder Cory Sullivan, reducing to 37 the number of players in big league camp. ... The Dodgers (12-11-4) have their final split-squad date of the spring Friday, with half the team traveling to Mesa to play the Chicago Cubs and the rest remaining at Camelback Ranch for a game with the Milwaukee Brewers. Capuano will pitch the home game, while a parade of relievers will go against the Cubs.