Dodgers starter Alex Wood is coming off a month in May in which he seemed to realize his potential, going 28.1 innings with a 3.18 ERA and a 2.91 FIP. That performance was powered by his missing a ton of bats (35.3 K%) and not issuing a ton of walks (6.0 BB%), which itself stemmed from mechanical adjustments that appeared to give his breaking ball better two-plane movement.
So of course, because he’s on the Dodgers, his reward for that mini-breakout was a trip to the 15-day disabled list, where he’ll likely remain for what seems like at least six weeks after it was announced that he would need four weeks of rest before being re-evaluated.
Wood, who started the Dodgers’ 2-0 loss to the Cubs on Monday at Wrigley Field, was placed on the 15-day disabled list with soreness in his left elbow on Tuesday. He flew to Los Angeles and underwent an MRI Wednesday that showed a posterior impingement that will require approximately four weeks of rest.
“As I understand it, the ligament is intact,” manager Dave Roberts said after the Dodgers’ 2-1 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday night. “So it’s kind of some things that were in the past that have kind of showed themselves, and all pitchers have some, to some extent. He felt good enough to make the start [on Monday] and felt pretty good going into it, but afterward, obviously, it inflamed. … The ligament is intact, and that’s a blessing right there.”
And despite people who suddenly proclaimed themselves experts on biomechanics in the wake of the injury — because they knew for sure Wood’s delivery would get him injured — what actually happened was Wood pulling a Scott Kazmir and hurting himself trying to be an athlete.
Wood originally felt soreness in his triceps on a swing while batting on May 15 against the Cardinals, then felt soreness again after his May 21 start in San Diego. The Dodgers pushed Wood back three days with that triceps soreness, meaning his Monday start was on eight days rest. When Wood felt soreness again on Tuesday, he was placed on the DL and sent back to Los Angeles, where he met with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
This is Wood’s first time on the disabled list in his career, though he has had Tommy John surgery before, as a senior in high school in 2009.
In any case, Wood’s injury is bad not just because one could argue he’s emerged as the second-best pitcher on the roster (in May, at least), but because there’s no guarantee Wood will pickup right where he left off when he does return. It’s just unfortunate timing for both him and the Dodgers.
Fortunately, the Dodgers somehow still do have viable options to replace Wood. Even ignoring the potential returns of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, and Brett Anderson, the Dodgers currently have one of baseball’s top prospects in Julio Urias taking his spot in the rotation, and should that fail they still have Ross Stripling rested and waiting in AAA. Thus, the injury isn’t quite a death knell to a rotation that quietly has the fifth-best ERA in baseball (3.42) and the fourth-best FIP (3.33).
That said, now the rotation is on seriously shaky ground. With Urias unproven, De Leon still nursing a sore shoulder, and injured reinforcements still a month or more away, another injury to a starter would result in a true emergency option being called up. Zach Lee? A currently struggling Jharel Cotton? A newly-off-the-disabled list Carlos Frias? One could make the argument that it’s Brock Stewart that might be having the best run of form at the moment. Point being, it has the potential to get ugly if this goes another level deeper, but for now all the injuries remain barely survivable thanks to the depth of starters.