Coach: Sked might have hurt players

Updated: April 2, 2014, 11:44 PM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

SAN DIEGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have stopped short of blaming injuries to star pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Brian Wilson on the team's season-opening trip to Australia, but they're certainly not ruling it out.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Wednesday that the team's shortened spring training and a long string of days with no games before and after the trip could have exposed pitchers to injuries.

Kershaw is out until at least May with inflammation in his upper back, and Wilson was put on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, retroactive to Monday, with nerve irritation in his right elbow.

Of the opening series, Honeycutt said, "I don't think enough thought was put into the process."

The Dodgers cut spring training short to fly to Australia on March 16, about 10 days earlier than most teams, and arrived there four days before playing two regular-season games against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Honeycutt said Kershaw told him he felt discomfort in his back after making the Opening Day start March 22. Kershaw threw 102 pitches over 6 2/3 innings, holding the Diamondbacks to a run on five hits at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and he hasn't pitched since.

When the Dodgers returned from Sydney, they had four days off before resuming exhibition games with the Los Angeles Angels.

"I just feel like you always try to put health in front of the situation," Honeycutt said. "I'm just saying they should continue to look into it in the best way they can, so it's the most healthy situation for the players. If that's something they really want to do, I just think they need to take all the factors into account."

Kershaw made just four spring training starts, pitching a total of 14 2/3 innings. In spring of 2013, before his second Cy Young season, Kershaw made seven starts and pitched 28 innings. It's becoming clearer why Zack Greinke said he had "zero excitement" for the Australia trip before the Dodgers left. Greinke strained a calf muscle and stayed back in Arizona along with several of his teammates.

The Dodgers and Kershaw agreed to a record seven-year, $215 million contract in January.

For his part, Kershaw isn't blaming the short spring or the long plane flights -- about 15 hours each way -- for the injury.

"I don't think the flights themselves had anything to do with it. Obviously pitching is what hurt it, whether that's because I was in Australia or not, who knows?" Kershaw said. "I feel like I rested an adequate amount of time, I felt great all spring, didn't really have any soreness or anything. Usually, something comes up. I don't know what I could have done better."

Kershaw thinks the injury stemmed from throwing hard, which could indicate the short spring was part of the problem. If his arm wasn't adequately built up, the adrenaline of pitching to major league hitters in a real game could have caused him to overextend and injure himself. The strained muscle is the teres major, just under the shoulder blade.

Wilson, who has had two Tommy John surgeries on his right elbow, said the short spring didn't give him enough time to get ready. He also missed eight days of pitching in the spring because of elbow soreness.

"I would have liked to have had more innings, but mentally I knew the season was going to come a little faster so I tried to get ready as fast as I possibly could," Wilson said. "Mentally and physically, I'm just not at the same spot."

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Wilson "just kind of got behind" in spring training.

"He has been trying to catch up by adding on and losing location, trying to throw harder and change things a bit," Mattingly said. "Maybe that's where the irritation comes from. We are going to be more conservative moving forward this time of year."

Mattingly also said the Dodgers might have made some different decisions during Wilson's spring training if they had known more about the injury.

"He had a game in spring training where we got a little bit of a sign. We watched him for a few days after that. It wasn't a total surprise when he didn't come out the right way," he said.

In addition, Mattingly said outfielder Matt Kemp is on track to be activated from the disabled list Friday and that Josh Beckett is scheduled to pitch for Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday night as he works his way back from the DL.

The Dodgers recalled right-hander Jose Dominguez from Triple-A Albuquerque. Dominguez had a 2.16 ERA in nine appearances with the Dodgers last year, his first big league season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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