Three weeks ago, Valenzuela gave the first indication that he might have a shoulder problem. He said he had problems getting his shoulder loose while warming up in the bullpen but that he had no soreness or stiffness while pitching. In spring training, Valenzuela said that he had stiffness for the first half of the 1987 season but that it did not affect him after the All-Star break.
Although only 27, Valenzuela has averaged at least 250 innings in his 8-season career. Last season, Valenzuela had a career high ERA, at 3.98, and set a Dodger record for most walks, at 124. This season, Valenzuela has a 4.39 ERA, has given up 12 more walks than strikeouts and allowed 138 hits in 135 innings.
Valenzuela said Sunday that he did not feel pain in his shoulder or arm until Saturday's start.
"I've had a bad year," Valenzuela said. "It's not my arm. In the beginning of the season, I needed more time to warm up, but I didn't feel anything until the last start."
Manager Tom Lasorda said he had suspicions about the state of Valenzuela's arm.
"I always felt that way, that something was wrong," Lasorda said. "But he would never tell you because he's such a tremendous competitor. It's good to know, though, that we're able to take care of him. The longer he pitched with it, the more injurious it is to his health.
"He feels like he's letting the team down. I told him that even the best car, when it's 8 years old, gets a flat tire. I'm hoping in the final month (of the season), he will be able to come back.
"After he won 21 games in 1986, I saw him go a little backward in spring training. I think that's when it started. That was the first time, to me, he didn't look like the same Fernando."
Neither Jobe nor Valenzuela would speculate on a return date.
"It may well be longer than three weeks," Jobe said. "You just can't tell. You've got to start with something. How long, we'll find out. I don't think he'll be out for the season. At least, three weeks."
Valenzuela, though saying it will feel strange not to pitch, said he did not want to rush his rehabilitation.
"I don't want to go out and pitch anymore if I'm not ready," Valenzuela said. "I don't help the team, and I don't want to kill my career."