Ted Lilly is out today with a stiff neck that caused him to miss a scheeduled bullpen session on Saturday and could cause him to miss his next scheduled start, which is Tuesday at Peoria against the Padres. Lilly has had stiffness and trouble turning his head for two days, similar to neck pain he experienced in the middle of last season. Manager Don Mattingly is playing it cautious with Lilly.
"He's been throwing the ball good, he's been on pace, and has been getting everything in. I don't want to, all of a sudden, keep pushing him to go forward and end up going backward for a longer period of time," Mattingly said. "The first series, the way it's set up with the off day, allows us some flexibility."
Lilly is in line to pitch the third game of the season, on April 7 in San Diego, but the Dodgers' off day on April 9 gives Mattingly the option to skip Lilly in that first series if needed.
"It's not something we have discussed at length," said Mattingly, who noted he planned to confer with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and trainer Sue Falsone should Lilly continue to experience neck problems.
The earliest date to backdate a disabled list stint is today, so if the Dodgers had to they could place Lilly on the DL and he would be able to pitch by April 11 (Lilly could pitch April 10, but that is the home opener, scheduled to be started by Clayton Kershaw). Such a move, if needed, could allow the Dodgers to carry an extra player, either an eighth reliever like Josh Lindblom or an extra position player like Justin Sellers, for instance.
Sellers, meanwhile, is out again today with a skin rash, though Mattingly said the infielder feels better and is expected to resume normal workouts on Monday.
The other pitching injury is to Blake Hawksworth, who has experienced setbacks in his recovery from his pair of elbow surgeries. Hawksworth had arthroscopic surgery on January 11, but had an infection that required a second surgery about two weeks later. Hawksworth has been able to throw this spring, but only rarely, and has since been shut down.
As of now, there is no timetable for Hawksworth's return, and Mattingly said the relief pitcher is not expected back until mid-May at the earliest.
"He's been working extremely hard, he's doing everything he can possibly do," Mattingly said. "It's been long enough without throwing, even if he was 100% with no restrictions whatsoever it's going to take him a spring training at least to get his arm strength up."
A "spring training" for Hawksworth is about 45 days, which means a 60-day disabled list stint is likely for the right-hander, who is out of options. Placing Hawksworth on the 60-day DL would mean the earliest date he is eligible to pitch is May 25.
The Dodgers are basically down to two open spots on the opening day roster, ignoring the Lilly situation for a moment. I am of the opinion that the final bullpen spot will go to one of Jamey Wright or John Grabow, both non-roster invitees. The final bench spot is between Josh Fields, Sellers, and Jerry Sands, with the non-roster invitee Fields the heavy favorite, again in my opinion.
I think Fields gets added to the roster and takes the spot of Trent Oeltjen, who could be a candidate for a spot but his left-handedness costs him here. I think Wright beats out Grabow for the final bullpen spot, but whichever NRI wins the spot will have room opened by Hawksworth to the 60-day DL.
If Lilly ends up needing to go on the DL, I think Sellers gets the short-term spot on the roster for the first five games of the year, or until Lilly's rotation spot comes up.
Of course, all of this could change with a single injury, but that is how I see it at the moment.
Clayton Kershaw makes his penultimate Cactus League start as the Dodgers head to Maryvale to battle the Milwaukee Brewers. Shawn Marcum is making his first Cactus League start for Milwaukee.
Also scheduled to pitch today for the Dodgers are Lindblom, Grabow, and Scott Rice.
Kenley Jansen, Todd Coffey, and Mike MacDougal, all of whom pitched in Saturday's game, will pitch in a minor league game today at Camelback Ranch, in their first back-to-back outings of the spring, against Kansas City Royals Class A hitters.
Game Time: 1:05 p.m (both games)
Radio: KTNQ 1020 AM; also , the Brewers' broadcast of the game, with old friend Joe Block, can be heard through MLB Gameday Audio