Ted Lilly was designated for assignment Thursday by the Dodgers after the… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
It’s not like more evidence was needed to demonstrate the Dodgers are very different these days, but it was offered anyway Thursday when they unexpectedly designated veteran left-hander Ted Lilly for assignment.
The move tells you something about where the Dodgers are expecting to go these days, and maybe where Lilly forced them to go.
Lilly has struggled to stay healthy all season, his latest a nagging neck injury that the Dodgers said he told them would reduce him to service as a reliever. And because they already have two left-handers in the bullpen pitching extremely well -- Paco Rodriguez and J.P. Howell -- the Dodgers elected to designate Lilly and call up utility man Elian Herrera.
“You get to a point where you’re forced into a move and have to make it,” Manager Don Mattingly said.
Lilly is an expensive cut. He is in the final year of a three-year, $33-million contract. He is making $13.2 million this season, so the Dodgers still owe almost half of that. He could be placed on waivers, traded or released in 10 days.
In his four seasons with the Dodgers, Lilly had more good moments than bad (24-21, 3.83 ERA). He was probably their best pitcher early last season when he started 5-1 with a 3.14 ERA, but he suffered a shoulder injury in late May, never pitched again that season and ultimately required surgery.
Lilly, 37, had to be shocked to be designated by the Dodgers after being activated from the injury list Wednesday. Lilly, however, said he still wants to pitch, hopes to be with another team as soon as possible and is confident he will be.
“Very much so,” Lilly said. “I’m throwing the ball well and expect to get better. The unknown factor is just stay healthy and I definitely believe if I do that I’ll be effective.”
The Dodgers, however, are on a roll with what they have, and not eager to change anything.
“We feel like we have our best team here,” Mattingly said.
Rodriguez has been lights out of late, having not given up an earned run his last 20 games (15 1/3 innings), striking out 20 and walking three. Howell has yielded one earned run his last 13 appearances.
“We didn’t want to do this,” Mattingly said. “We all love Teddy. He just couldn’t stay healthy.
“It just gets to the point where we had to make a decision.”
Of course, if Lilly had been willing to make continued rehab appearances or even stay in the minors, things might yet have worked out for him. He was 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA in five starts with the Dodgers this season, but they are looking like a team that can compete for a championship.
And with injuries unpredictable, if particularly frequent this season for the Dodgers, they may have yet called him up later in the season. He still had a chance to be pitching in the postseason
“We definitely discussed (the minors) but I felt I was ready to help them win games here and now,” Lilly said. “Maybe that’s why we’re here today and maybe it’s not. I don’t know.”
Said Mattingly: “It was his decision. He didn’t want it and he didn’t feel like he needed to … so at that point we’re kind of on blind faith. Can a guy come out of the ’pen, and we didn’t know how long it would take to get him ready. There were a lot of questions for us.”
Mattingly said the Dodgers activated Lilly Wednesday in Toronto because they were playing in an American League club with the designated hitter and might have needed an extra pitcher if the game went extra innings.
The game did go 10 innings, but if it had gone 15 and Lilly had thrown one or two perfect innings to indicate he could pitch effectively out of the bullpen, are the Dodgers still making the same move Thursday?
“I think we are,” Mattingly said. “I don’t know where else we would go. But maybe not. Maybe it changes it.”