Spring Has Sprung and So Have the Injuries


Someone has to be accountable for the rash of injuries the Dodgers have encountered over the past couple of seasons. Last Spring, the Dodgers seemed to be in a good position with extra starting pitchers, but we all know how the injury downward spiral went down. The Dodgers were forced to pitch Stephen Fife and Matt Magill early on after the Carlos Quentin incident with Zack Greinke and the inevitable implosion of Chad Billingsley‘s elbow. The Dodgers have only played two exhibition games thus far, yet the injuries are beginning to occur on an almost daily basis out of Camelback Ranch.

Yesterday Zack Greinke left the game after four pitches as he hopped awkwardly on the mound. A “mild” calf strain was the diagnosis, but Greinke was back at it on Friday to play some light catch. Don Mattingly reported that Greinke still felt discomfort while pushing off, but thankfully his arm is not affected by the calf strain.

Ross Stripling should have disclosed his elbow pain earlier. Photo: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Are the trainers and medical staff warming up the players correctly? It seems to me that most of these early Spring Training injuries are due to players trying to do too much too soon. The trainers need to set up a progressive training and conditioning program which allows for the players, both pitchers and position players, to slowly work themselves back into Major League ready form. It’s still February, at least for one last day, and there’s no reason to rush any of the players into performing at an elite level right out of the gate.

After Sue Falsone left the organization, it has been quiet with regards to the training staff. While I agree there were many training mistakes the last two seasons which may have contributed to increased frequency of injury, Falsone is not the only one to blame. The players themselves either play through pain and not tell anyone, and the trainers seem to rush players back too soon adding to the injury probability.

Ross Stripling is now experiencing elbow pain, and the top pitching prospect will undergo a contrast MRI on his elbow and has been completely shutdown. This is such unfortunate news. Stripling, a bright personable young player, was kind enough to speak with our own Kenny Shulsen at Camelback Ranch. Stripling didn’t mention anything about elbow issues during his interview, but it is reported that he felt soreness up to a week ago but didn’t tell any of the training staff. I really hope that Stripling’s injury is nothing serious and it won’t sideline him for too long. With an opportunity to showcase his talents this Spring, it is a shame if he is unable to do so.

Carl Crawford is back into the swing of things. It wouldn’t feel like Dodger baseball was returning unless CC had some sort of ache or pain. Is it the quad? Is it the hamstring? Apparently it’s both now. Crawford experienced tightening while running the bases during Wednesday’s Cactus League opener. Crawford has said this offseason that he want to return to stealing bases like he had done during his prime years. That’s a great goal, but as we can see from the early Spring results, CC’s stealin’ days may be all but over. Perhaps it is just a minor strain, but it just reminds us that there were reasons why the Dodgers were never going to trade Ethier.

Yasiel Puig is also battling soreness. His shoulder has flared up, but it seems like with some rest he should be okay. Puig is scheduled to play in Saturday’s game.

Kemp had another MRI to check his ankle, but it is unclear whether the doctors will green-light him to run outdoors. Kemp’s ankle is extremely precarious. One more injury to the ankle could end his career. I think it’s best that Matt Kemp take baby steps until his ankle can heal 100%.

Brandon League pitched a stimulated inning to Kemp, and he is slowly working his way back from a lat strain. Bad luck Scott Elbert threw off the mound for the first time since his appendectomy in January. The 28-year old southpaw hasn’t seen Major League action with the Dodgers since 2012. Chad Billingsley’s rehab is continuing to go smoothly, and he is ready to add curveballs to the mix come Saturday.

Matt Kemp awaits word on whether he is cleared to run on his surgically repaired ankle. Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Band Aids, Bruises, and Strains, oh my! When will this cycle of injury end for the Dodgers? Unfortunately for the Dodgers injuries plagued the team through the first couple of months of the season last year, and the plethora of injuries have really dampened the true potential of the Dodgers for the past couple of seasons. The Dodgers essentially lost two seasons of Matt Kemp, they lost Zach Greinke and Hanley Ramirez for the beginning of last season, Bills was lost for the whole year, Beckett went down, etc. etc.

Stan Conte is still heading the training staff as the Vice President of Medical Services. He has also taken over Sue Falsone’s head athletic trainer duties which I’m not sure is a permanent situation.

Vice President, Medical Services

Stan Conte

Assistant Athletic Trainer

Nancy Patterson

Assistant Athletic Trainer

Greg Harrel

Massage Therapist

Ichiro Tani

Strength and Conditioning Coach

Stephen Downey

Strength and Conditioning Coach

In order to win a championship, the key players need to remain healthy. The Dodgers overcame the injuries to their star players with help from a scrappy bench last season. Now without the help of utility guys like Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto, the Dodgers will need to cover all their bases so to speak. The injuries are not easy to forecast, but the training staff needs to prepare the players properly in order to prevent injuries if possible. If a player gets hurt during the game, take him out immediately! Don’t let Carl Crawford full out steal in game one of Spring Training knowing he’s extremely rusty. Monitor all your pitchers very carefully, and try to prevent them from pitching through even minor pain.

Dodgers official injury report:

Billingsley, Chad (P)02/10Spring TrainingPossibly late MayRecovery from April 2013 Tommy John surgeryThrowing off mound as of Feb. 8 update.
Elbert, Scott (P)02/1060-day DLPossibly JuneRecovery from June 2013 Tommy John surgeryPlaced on 60-day DL on Feb. 8.
Kemp, Matt (CF)02/21Spring TrainingPossibly AprilRecovery from October 2013 left ankle surgeryAs of Feb. 21 update, not expected to make club’s season-opening trip to Australia.

One last word of advice to the training staff: please get Hanley Ramirez fitted for his bubble wrap suit!