The Intrigue Around Ted Lilly’s Shoulder Continues to Grow

Last night, we talked about the rumors around Nathan Eovaldi & Roy Oswalt, and wondered what this might mean for the immediate future of the Dodger rotation. This morning, we’re starting to learn that Ted Lilly‘s still-not-completely-understood injury situation may be more serious than we had anticipated…

Ted Lilly will be disabled with a shoulder injury and replaced as the Dodgers’ Tuesday night starting pitcher by Nathan Eovaldi, who will be promoted from Double-A Chattanooga.

It is not known if Lilly will need surgery, but the Dodgers are concerned enough that they were looking for a long-term solution by negotiating with free agent Roy Oswalt before bowing out over his financial demands. Lilly is in the second year of a three-year, $33 million contract.

We’d all sort of assumed that this may have been related to the neck injury that sidelined Lilly at the start of the season, but the fact that we’re even hearing the word “surgery” in relation to an arm injury is alarming, especially considering that Lilly had been effective so far this season. (Though not quite as effective as you might think; his 3.14 ERA is not quite supported by a 3.81 FIP and a 4.60 xFIP, each either worst or second-worst among the five Dodger starters.) You can see over at FanGraphs that his velocity was noticeably down even from its usual low level last week against Arizona, when he was shelled, and it’s not hard to think that he was already feeling some ill effects from whatever this injury turns out to be. We’ll still need to wait to hear just how severe this could be, although anyone who is truly surprised by a 36-year-old pitcher with roughly 2600 professional innings under his belt & four previous DL trips for shoulder woes coming down with a shoulder injury should probably reset their expectations. Even though it’s not quite official yet, I’ve updated the Depth Chart to make him approximately the 128th Dodger to hit the disabled list this year.

As for Eovaldi, I like him well enough, but I’ve never been as high on him as others, and if Lilly is expected to be out for a long period of time I do think it makes sense to find a more permanent replacement than to rely on Eovaldi to be a savior. There’s been a few updated scouting reports on Eovaldi recently – here’s a good one – and most paint him as a two-pitch pitcher who may have trouble succeeding as a starter unless he can make improvements on at least one other pitch. That, plus his less-than-dominant strikeout numbers against Double-A competition, have lead many to figure that his future may be in the bullpen. That doesn’t mean I’m against calling up to fill in for Lilly and letting him get some experience with the big club for now, but it does mean that I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of him being a mainstay in the rotation for the rest of the year on a team that plans to contend. (On a somewhat related note, not that I’m advocating calling him up and squeezing him back onto the 40-man roster or anything, but John Ely somehow has 65 strikeouts in 60 Triple-A innings. How did that happen?)

Anyway, all speculation is premature until we find out the extent of Lilly’s injury. For now, it at least explains the interest in Oswalt, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what Eovaldi can do in his second taste of the majors.

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Slowly but surely, the A.J. Ellis love train is picking up steam outside of Dodgerville. Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted his support of our ongoing campaign to send Ellis to Kansas City…

Friend of the blog “The Common Man”, best known for his work at The Platoon Advantage, spreads some A.J. awareness north of the border at The Score

I know this will be hard for some of you to believe, but sometimes we saberdouches miss on a player.  Whether that’s Bobby Kielty, or Billy McMillon, or Daric Barton, some guys just don’t develop the way we hope they will.  AAAA players, guys who simply can’t make the jump from AAA to the Majors, do exist.  Meanwhile, sometimes guys like Denard Span or Melky Cabrera defy expectations and establish themselves as good or even great Major Leaguers, when there’s very little eveidence they will.  We’re wrong sometimes.

But sometimes we’re really not.  And so I’m incredibly excited to see what AJ Ellis has been doing this season with regular playing time.  Coming into 2012, Ellis had managed a .406 OBP in the minors over nine seasons, but with just a .380 slugging percentage, despite spending the last four seasons at Las Vegas and Albuquerque in the Pacific Coast League.  In the Majors, he had totaled 244 plate appearances, and had hit .262/.360/.330.  He was also going to be 31 years old and had never had more than 128 plate appearances in any previous season.

And finally, Ellis himself teams with Clayton Krenshaw… I mean, Clayton Kershaw, to bring us what may be the greatest video in the history of the internet… (h/t Dodger Thoughts)

Forget the All-Star game. We need to get Ellis on the Hall of Fame ballot.

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