PHOENIX — Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez continues to work his way back from suffering a contusion on his right hand early in camp, but the right-hander appears headed for the disabled list to open the regular season.
It is perhaps fitting that for Baez, notoriously one of the slowest pitchers in baseball while on the mound, there isn’t a rush in getting him ready for the season.
“He pitched a lot last year, considerably more than he has ever pitched in a major league season. We’re going to be conservative with Pedro,” manager Dave Roberts said. “If that means starting the season with us, great. But if that means he’s delayed a little bit, then so be it. There is no hard-line, drop-dead date.”
Baez converted from a third baseman to pitcher in 2013, and in 2016 his 74 innings were 12 more frames than any of his other three seasons, and an increase of 20 innings over 2015. His 73 appearances last year was 18 more than his previous high.
Baez took a comebacker off just below his right thumb while throwing live batting practice on Feb. 22, and was sidelined for nearly four weeks. He threw two bullpen sessions last week, then faced hitters again with live BP on Friday.
Up next for Baez is another live batting practice session, likely on Monday.
That doesn't leave enough time for Baez, who has yet to appear in a game this spring, to be ready for opening day. Especially if the Dodgers want to see him pitch in multiple innings in a game to test his thumb, before clearing him.
Baez pitched in multiple innings in 16 of his 74 appearances in 2016. Joe Blanton (18) was the only other Dodgers pitcher with more than 11 such games.
“There’s got to be a point where he’s got to go up and down, given the structure of our pen,” Roberts said. “That’s a marker that we need to see.”