Friday, March 15, 2013
Dodgers crossing their fingers on Greinke
By Jim Bowden
After Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, who else fills out the starting rotation?
The good news for the Los Angeles Dodgers is that Zack Greinke’s elbow ligaments and tendons are fine. The bad news is Greinke himself doesn’t know when he’ll be able to pitch again.
The right-hander has been dealing with inflammation in his pitching elbow and was given an injection of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to settle down the elbow. In my experience, inflammation is a telltale sign of loose bodies -- perhaps a bone spur or something similar. But when I pressed Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, he told me there were no loose bodies or a bone spur in the back of Greinke’s elbow.
The Dodgers are hoping the PRP injection helps Greinke as it did his teammate Chad Billingsley, who is pain-free and throwing great. Greinke didn’t want to talk about the elbow, only saying that he was going to follow the direction of the training staff. To him, the best-case scenario might be pitching the second game of the season, but he definitely won't be able to throw 120 pitches by then even if all goes well.
Greinke is emblematic of the Dodgers right now: lots of star power with lots of questions. The star power sends expectations through the roof -- expectations that don’t match the team’s actual ability level and health. A good season has the Dodgers winning 90 games and a playoff berth, but the fact is they simply aren’t better than clubs such as the Giants, Nationals, Reds and Tigers.
With Greinke’s signing, a duo of Clayton Kershaw and Greinke seemingly could equal any of the NL’s top pitching duos. But is Kershaw’s hip, which caused him to miss two starts late last season, still a concern?
So Colletti went out and put together a surplus of starting pitching just in case.
You probably can pencil in Beckett as the No. 3 starter. He’s a humbled person since coming over from Boston, and he knows where he’s at in his career and on this team. He told me he knows he’s no longer an ace and is trying to reinvent himself, working more on first-pitch curveballs and throwing more secondary pitches on fastball counts. He now realizes he has to be more creative in getting outs and realizes an out is an out regardless of how you get it. He’s healthy and seems poised to have a good season.
Capuano, Harang and Lilly are being very professional about the situation. They realize the team could trade any one of them and others could end up in the bullpen, where none of them want to be.
Odd man out?
It's hard to see any of these 13 pitchers going to the minors, so one will likely be moved.
Ryu will be on the pitching staff even if he doesn’t make the rotation, and he pitched really well his last time out, finally showing why the Dodgers’ evaluations were so high on him. Catcher A.J. Ellis told me Ryu’s changeup is his best secondary pitch and he can really hit the black on both sides of the plate with his fastball, while his curve and slider show promise. But the bad-bodied Ryu doesn't like to condition and hardly even threw side sessions in his native Korea. This should be interesting to watch throughout the season.
With a rotation filled with health risks, keeping at least seven of the eight is probably a necessity. Colletti even told me he could picture a scenario in which all eight starters make the team, with three in the pen. But look at the chart to the right; those are 13 big league caliber arms, and a typical pitching staff is comprised of 12 men. The math just doesn't add up.
Someone’s got to go, and to me Harang is most likely to be traded. Manager Don Mattingly told me he doesn’t think Harang can pitch out the bullpen. So what could they get for Harang?
The Dodgers' bench will be one of the most versatile in the league with Jerry Hairston, Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker, who give Mattingly tremendous flexibility on double switches. But they could use a fourth outfielder/first baseman with power to back up Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Harang could be used as a chip to acquire such a player.
• Speaking of Crawford, he is making progress from Tommy John surgery. He looks refreshed and healthy. He has been impressing management with his daily 5:30 a.m. reporting time and work ethic. He has told Mattingly he’s all for leading off despite the fact he typically hit in the No. 2 hole during his time in Tampa Bay. The Dodgers were 15th in the NL last season in on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot (.281); only the Reds were worse. The Reds solved that problem by acquiring Shin-Soo Choo; the Dodgers now have Crawford.
“Leading off for the Los Angeles Dodgers is a big gig,” Crawford said. “That’s what I want.”
The Dodgers aren't going to rush Crawford, and according to Mattingly, Hairston probably will be in left field on Opening Day.
• The most underrated offseason move for the Dodgers was the signing of Mark McGwire as hitting coach. We all know the great job he did in St. Louis with Allen Craig, Jon Jay and David Freese. His impact is already being felt in the Dodgers’ hitting cages.
• I saw outfielder Yasiel Puig in the clubhouse and thought he was wearing shoulder pads under his shirt, but it was just his muscles. Puig is rightfully getting comparisons to Bo Jackson and does a great job of making contact in the strike zone. He's an absolute monster. Though he’s still really raw and a couple of years away, Puig is clearly the Dodgers’ best prospect and is a future impact player The Dodgers like their pitching depth in Triple-A and are really excited about what they’ve seen from Matt Magill and Stephen Fife. They love Chris Reed and Zach Lee, but don’t feel they’re major league ready yet.
Notes: Capuano has been learning from Sandy Koufax this spring and cutting down on his cutter in hopes of returning to his first-half success of last year … Many teams have called on the availability of Dee Gordon. The Dodgers continue to listen, but they like the security for Hanley Ramirez as well as Gordon’s blazing speed Luis Cruz said the brawl in the WBC had nothing to do with the run differential tiebreaker rules. But rather, it was a baseball etiquette issue on two other pitches earlier in the game. Cruz has had solid at-bats in the Classic and should be ready to be the Dodgers' third baseman. He’s a quality player and vastly underrated The Dodgers players were given a sneak preview in Glendale of the movie “42”, a splendid biography of Jackie Robinson. They were all raving about it, calling it a must-see movie for baseball fans Not only is Kershaw the best pitcher in NL, he might be the best pingpong player. He’s got power, spin and reach (wingspan) that is beyond comprehension.