The Dodgers just wrapped up a series against the National League’s best Washington Nationals. The club dropped two out of three in the series and saw their offense struggle throughout the series. Not all news is bad though for Dodger fans as Dave Roberts and company received some pretty good news on some of their injured players.
Justin Turner played in a simulated game on Wednesday morning before the series finale against the Nationals. All reports were positive following a rehab game on Monday in Rancho Cucamonga and the simulated game yesterday.
This means there’s a good chance J.T. could be activated on Friday for the series opener against the Cincinnati Reds. The return of J.T. would allow Logan Forsythe to move back to his original position at second base and give Chase Utley more days off to fall back into his bench role.
Turner brings a much-needed right-handed power bat to a lineup that has been struggling badly as of late. Although Turner only has one home run on the season, Turner has been one of the most clutch hitters for the Dodgers in the heart of the lineup.
Turner taking over his third base duties brings more depth to a club that has the deepest bench in all of baseball. His activation does mean a drop off in playing time for Chase Utley and Kike Hernandez as the infield is entirely healthy for the first time all season.
With Turner expected to be activated before the upcoming weekend series, this leaves only Joc Pederson as the only opening day starter to be on the DL. Joc Pederson is hopeful to embark on a rehab assignment by the end of this week.
Pederson has been slowed since landing on the DL on May 25th after a collision with Yasiel Puig. His return has been slowed down due to neck stiffness, particularly when looking to his right. That’s a serious injury for a left-handed hitter that needs to tilt his head to the right when hitting and Dave Roberts will want Pederson to prove his health before assuming his everyday role in center field.
Roberts has not been quick to grant Pederson his everyday role once he returns, saying that Pederson will have to prove himself with quality at-bats. Roberts has also said Pederson’s rehab stint could be a lengthy one to allow Joc to get his timing and confidence back at the plate.
Clearly, there’s no sense of urgency from Roberts, and he understands that one of his young players may be better off figuring out his struggles in Oklahoma City rather than rushing him back. Chris Taylor is a big reason why Roberts has developed patience for Pederson’s return. When Pederson is healthy enough to return it will be interesting to see how Roberts manages Taylors’ playing time.
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Alex Wood who is on the DL with an inflamed joint in his chest is expected to be activated and start on Saturday against the Reds. It’s a good thing for Dodger fans to see Wood only miss the minimum amount of starts since going on the DL.
Activating Wood has led to moving Kenta Maeda to the bullpen, temporarily. Maeda has had an up and down season but has still struggled to show any consistency with his command in his starts this season. Maeda was able to avoid the bullpen a few weeks ago due to the struggles of Hyun-Jin Ryu. But since Dave Roberts inserted Ryu back in the rotation, Ryu has pitched pretty well, accumulating 13 innings in his past two starts.
Maeda will make his bullpen debut sometime on Friday or Saturday in extended relief for either Rich Hill or Alex Wood. Rich Hill has yet to pitch six innings in any of his starts, and Alex Wood is making his first start back from the DL, so Roberts is expecting a short leash for both pitchers.
This may not be the route Maeda envisioned his 2017 season going, but for now, it definitely appears to be the right call for Roberts. Ryu has shown a little improvement in his command since pitching four innings in relief on May 25th. Maeda has struggled this season getting through the fourth time of the batting order. Perhaps pitching a few innings out of relief can allow him to get outs and regain his confidence.
Knock on wood, but the boys in blue are starting to get healthy for the first time all season. The return of J.T. is huge for an offense that has been stuck in a rut since the end of May and marks the first time all season that the projected infield during the offseason will be on the field together. Alex Wood bring some much-needed consistency behind Kershaw in the rotation. Let’s hope these injury returns help change the direction June has been going for the club.