Can Dodgers Still Make a Deep Playoff Run If Ted Lilly Never Returns Healthy?

Robert PaceContributor IIIJune 18, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 18: Ted Lilly #29 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on May 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Dodgers’ solid pitching staff took a blow at the end of May when veteran pitcher Ted Lilly was placed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

While mere muscle inflammation isn’t typically a serious injury, the severity of his injury is unknown and may take more of toll on Lilly, now at 36 years old, than it would have in his earlier days.

Additional concern for his early-season injury is his previous struggle with shoulder injuries, as he underwent a minor operation a few years ago.

Although he has dealt with nagging shoulder issues in the past, this injury snuck up on him, as he tells the Los Angeles Times, which is even more cause for concern about his recovery timetable.

"In the past, I had shoulder issues but I saw them coming for a little while," Lilly said. "I could feel it coming on; I tried to fight through it. This, it came on pretty fast.”

While the possibility of surgery had originally been ruled out following an MRI that Lilly had done shortly after the injury occurred, Lilly unfortunately may have to resort to an operation if his recuperation doesn’t speed up.

Lilly hasn’t thrown in over three weeks and an attempted throwing session didn’t go well for him in the past week, which isn’t a good sign for his recovery.

If Lilly were to begin the rehabilitation process right away, he would probably be back on the mound for the Dodgers in the beginning of July, but his timetable for return is unknown right now and could be much longer than originally anticipated.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 13: Ted Lilly #29 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch against the Colorado Rockies on May 13, 2012 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images


If he were to undergo surgery, as may be necessary, Lilly would most likely be on the disabled list for the duration of the season and probably into the playoffs as well.


What it means for the Dodgers

The question then arises: Will the Dodgers be able to make a deep run into the playoffs if they don’t have Lilly as their No. 5 starter?

The 36-year-old lefty may not be the most dominant pitcher in the league, but he plays his role well as a finesse pitcher and has good off-speed pitches.

In his 2012 starts so far, Lilly has recorded a 3.14 earned run average with five wins in eight outings.

His only loss came in his final outing before his injury, in which his shoulder was bothering him as he gave up eight runs and five walks to the Diamondbacks on May 23.

Although Lilly will surely be missed during his absence (however long it may be), his replacement, Nate Eovaldi, has been stellar in his fill-in job as the No. 5 starter in the Dodgers’ rotation.

The 22-year-old hard-throwing righty has been very impressive in his four outings this season.

His record of 0-2 may not be very impressive, but it’s well worth noting that he has given up two or less runs in each of his starts and has received a total of four runs of offensive support combined in all his starts.


Eovaldi boasts a 1.82 earned run average with 18 strikeouts (4.5 per start) and has remarkable composure on the mound for his second year in the league.

Although he is young, he has the capacity to perform well under pressure and shouldn’t cave in intense playoff games if he remains the Dodgers' No. 5 starter in Ted Lilly’s absence.



Whichever pitcher the Dodgers have in the No. 5 slot in their rotation, they will be fine going into the postseason and have the potential to go deep into the playoffs.

In addition, the Dodgers may not need a No. 5 starter in the postseason, as they may decide to run a four-man rotation (Kershaw, Billingsley, Capuano, Harang) in the playoffs regardless of whether or not Lilly is on the disabled list.

Starting pitching is one of the Dodgers’ strong points, and the Blue Crew doesn’t need to worry about their rotation in the event that Lilly remains sidelined for the remainder of the season.