David Price threw a simulated inning from the mound on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, testing his strained right hamstring in the next step toward returning to the Dodgers.
Price first warmed up in the bullpen, then threw from the mound, with Justin Turner standing in against him. In addition to pitching, Price practiced covering first base, further testing his hamstring.
“He didn’t seem like he was holding anything back,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It didn’t seem like he was compensating at all in his delivery, and the stuff was good.”
Roberts said if Price comes out of this feeling good, he’ll face hitters — ones who will actually swing, unlike Turner who was just tracking pitches on Tuesday — potentially one or two times. That could be the final step before Price is activated, which could come as soon as next week.
It’s unlikely Price will pitch in any minor league rehab games before getting activated, but Roberts said he would defer to Price on that decision, depending on how he is feeling.
Price last pitched on April 25 against the Padres, and Sunday will mark three weeks since then, so a return next week would be a little on the low end for Grade 2 hamstring strains.
“[Reliever] is the role, and the nice things about that is the build up won’t take as long,” Roberts said. “To get him to go up and down is probably the ceiling right now.”
Fifth starter role
Like Price, the Dodgers plan to continue to use Jimmy Nelson in a relief role. Roberts said the fact that Nelson last pitched on May 4 had more to do with game situations and off days than grooming him to potentially make a spot start. The fact that Nelson can pitch multiple innings make him at least a candidate to pitch in a potential bullpen game, which will be needed within the next week.
“I’m not going to say it’s out of the question, but he would be in the conversation,” Roberts said of Nelson.
Tony Gonsolin, on the injured list since April 4 with right shoulder inflammation, will throw two innings against hitters this week at Camelback Ranch, and will be stretched out as a starter in a few minor league rehab starts after that before getting called up.
“He’s got to kind of look out at the progression, to three [innings] and 45 [pitches], four and 60, then we’ll kind of see where he’s at,” Roberts said.
With off days Monday and Thursday this week, it’s very likely the Dodgers would stick with Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer for the first two games against the Marlins on Friday and Saturday, because otherwise they’d be pitching on six days rest. So the earliest logical spot for a fifth starter is Sunday, but definitely needed no later then Tuesday against Arizona.
If Gonsolin needs two minor league rehab starts, presumably with Triple-A Oklahoma City, he could be ready to rejoin the Dodgers at some time on the next homestand, presumably in the series against San Francisco on May 27-30. That would necessitate two bullpen games in the interim. The Dodgers are carrying nine relievers, but having Price and Nelson as one of the options for at least one if not both games would be great peace of mind.
No IL for Pollock
AJ Pollock, who suffered a Grade 1 strain of his left hamstring — the milder version, compared to Price — received treatment at Dodger Stadium on Monday and is available as a pinch hitter on Tuesday.
“Depending on how it progresses, the hope is to get him in there tomorrow or Friday,” Roberts said.
This is usually Roberts speak meaning choose the later date, especially with an off day in between.
Sheldon Neuse gets his fourth career start in left field against Seattle on Tuesday, the previous three coming with Triple-A Las Vegas in 2019. He also played the final 2⅓ defensive innings in left field on Friday in Anaheim, and practiced in the outfield during spring training. Neuse was limited to second base and third base duty both in spring and during the regular season before Friday.
“I know he’s chomping at the bit to get at-bats,” Roberts said. “I just felt that to get him in there, he’s been taking good at-bat for us, it just made sense. He has no problem playing any of the corners in the outfield.
The right-handed Neuse’s bat is in there against Mariners lefty Yusei Kikuchi. Though Neuse has struggled this season against southpaws — just 2-for-19 (.105) with eight strikeouts — he hit .353/.424/.588 against left-handers in 2018-19 combined in Triple-A in the A’s system.