By Jon Weisman
In the hours since Brett Anderson’s second disc injury in three years was announced, it was easy to say how easy this was to predict.
But according to Dodger general manager Farhan Zaidi, the people who actually do this kind of prediction said it was highly unlikely.
“Going through the diagnosis yesterday, we were told the chance of recurrence of something like this was pretty low, something around 10 percent of the time,” Zaidi said. “It’s obviously an unfortunate thing to happen. He had a healthy season last year, (and) he came in this year in great shape, was doing a lot of preventative stuff to keep something like this from happening.
“In (asking) the doctors, ‘Was this a single traumatic thing, was it something that happened over time?’ — it really could be either. But it was obviously a very quick thing from throwing live BP and looking great, to feeling something, to having some tests done and realizing that he needed surgery. … The fortunate part of it is we’re still hopeful we see him at some point this season, most likely in the second half. But just to get back, the actuarial chances of recurrence are really low in this case, so it was just a bit of bad luck.”
Speaking shortly after striking out two in his two-inning Spring Training debut today, Clayton Kershaw didn’t downplay the significance of what Anderson’s injury meant.
“It’s a bummer,” Kershaw said. “From a team standpoint, he was such a big part of last year, and was able to stay healthy — and that was kind of the knock on him. I mean, I’ve known him since we were 16, and I know the kind of stuff that he has. And personally, I know (it’s hard). I can’t imagine going through one back surgery, let alone two.
“Anytime you have injuries, you just have to have one more guy almost pitch above expectations. It’s one thing playing to the expectations that you have individually that you’re supposed to do, but when guys are constantly having to step up and step up, it gets tough. So we’ll see.”
The flip side of today’s disappointment in the loss of Anderson is the belief in how many pitchers might do that up-stepping. Though it’s clear that veterans Alex Wood, Brandon Beachy and Mike Bolsinger are the first options to take the spots of Anderson and Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zaidi articulated the possibilities of a prospect making the big leap sooner than later.
“We just have to be open to anything,” Zaidi said. “I think it provides more of an opportunity for a broader range of guys in camp.”
In the case of top youngsters Julio Urias and Jose De Leon, neither of whom topped 115 innings last year, there’s no belief that either is ready to shoulder a full-season workload in the Majors. But with Anderson, Ryu and Brandon McCarthy all being candidates for comebacks, Zaidi suggested how the Dodgers might juggle.
“We’re definitely going to be monitoring some inning workloads over the course of the season, but those don’t have to be monitored up front,” Zaidi said. “If you look at some of the guys we have coming back in the second half of the season, the best opportunity for some of those (younger) guys might be early in the season rather than later. So we have some flexibility in where we fire those bullets, even if we have some guys we have to be careful with.
“It looks better on the back of a baseball card when a guy just comes up (to stay), but I think to be pragmatic about it, whether a guy needs to go back down for development reasons or whether you just don’t have a spot for him, it happens all the time and it happens with some really good young players and prospects. So I don’t think we’re averse to that, if that’s what’s best for the team and the player.”
Kershaw said he hasn’t imposed himself heavily on the prospects as they develop, but the communication lines are open.
“I want to help when I can,” Kershaw said, “if they want to talk, or if I see something when I’m watching them pitch. … I’ve talked to Julio probably the most, just because he’s been around a couple years now. I know he’s trying to throw a little bit of a different slider now, so we’ve talked a little bit about that. It just comes with time, just seeing it. He’s pretty well advanced, so I don’t think he needs much seasoning.”
Zaidi wouldn’t rule out an outside acquisition, though the timing isn’t ideal for one.
“It’s always tough to acquire pitching,” he said. “I think we had some of these same conversations about pitching depth last spring, and the early part of the spring in particular is when teams are taking stock of what they have and not necessarily looking outward to trade from surplus or anything like that.
“You never want to have to tap into (your) depth this early, but this is sort of the benefit of having that sort of depth. As soon as something like this happens, you hope you can backfill and create some more options for yourself, but we’re also in position where we have a lot of options and we certainly don’t need to do that.”
Nor do they need to rush Ryu back to fill a gap.
“There isn’t a strict timetable and an exact target date,” Zaidi said of Ryu’s return. “He’s coming off a pretty serious surgery obviously, and we gave him a little bit of a rest, so some of that is built into the schedule. It’s hard to really say what a realistic timetable is for his first game until he’s actually in a game. So we just have to build him up to that point. He’s in consultation with our doctors — there’s no concern about any physical issues, it’s just about building up the arm strength and getting over some of the mental and physical hurdles after you have a surgery like that.”