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April off days give Dodgers flexibility with Hyun-jin Ryu injury

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

MESA, Ariz. -- With news of Hyun-jin Ryu 's shoulder inflammation on Friday, it puts the left-hander's availability for the opening day roster at the very least in doubt. But the April schedule gives the Dodgers some flexibility to deal with this, while also potentially delaying one more relief decision.

Manager Don Mattingly told reporters Friday morning it was a "pretty safe assumption" that Ryu would open the season on the disabled list, at least as a precaution, which fits with Ryu's shoulder history.

Ryu went on the disabled list last April with shoulder inflammation, and ended up back in late May. He had the same issue in September though he wasn't placed on the DL because there was no need, with expanded roster limits during the season's final month. Ryu recovered in time to start Game 3 of the NLDS against the Cardinals.

In both instances, Ryu went exactly 23 days in between starts, and in each case was able to return without a minor league rehab start in between. If we apply that same timetable this year, with Ryu's last start on Tuesday, he could be back on April 10.

The most a disabled list stint can be backdated is 10 days before the season starts, and the clock starts on Sunday, April 5 even though the Dodgers don't play their first game until Monday, April 6. So if Ryu starts on the disabled list, his earliest activation would be April 10.

The Dodgers have an off day after their opening series against the Padres, and would need a fifth starter by April 14 at the latest, their eighth game of the season. But thanks to two more off days on April 16 and 20, the team could get by with four starters again until April 25, their 17th game.

In other words, if Ryu is going to miss some time, the Dodgers could buy themselves some roster flexibility with a few moves. They could open the season with Ryu on the DL and carry either an extra relief pitcher or an extra bench player for the first seven games. Then either Ryu could be activated, or if he needs more team the Dodgers could call on Joe Wieland, for instance, for one start, then could option him, giving the team potentially eight more games with either an extra bench player or reliever before that April 25 game.

But this is perhaps thinking too much into the situation. The Dodgers, under pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, have liked to use off days to give starting pitchers an extra day off whenever possible, so not taking advantage of these early April rest opportunities could prove problematic later on.

The most likely scenario could be Ryu just missing that first time through the rotation, but we'll know more in the coming days and weeks.