LOS ANGELES -- As Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was trying to grapple with reporters’ questions about whether the team’s highest-paid reliever is healthy, Brian Wilson was slipping out of the clubhouse without having to answer any of their questions.
Even Mattingly admitted neither he nor pitching coach Rick Honeycutt knows for sure whether Wilson is feeling anything in his twice-rebuilt right elbow. Wilson has already been on the disabled list once for some elbow discomfort, and his command and velocity issues surfaced again as he was giving up four ninth-inning runs in Thursday night’s 7-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
“All we can do is ask,” Mattingly said.
Which was more than could be said for the members of the media. Wilson was dressed and gone by the time most reporters had left the interview room where Mattingly was talking.
Wilson doesn’t look anything like the pitcher who relaunched his career from the brink of extinction with the Dodgers last September and October. Wilson, as he had while coughing up a late lead in San Diego in the third game this season, struggled to crack 91 mph, about six miles per hour off what he once worked at routinely and well down from the 93-to-96 mph range he dominated with for the Dodgers late last season.
Even more alarming has been Wilson’s lack of command, but the two issues often are related. Wilson admitted when he went on the disabled list in San Diego that he had concealed some tingling sensations in his elbow from Mattingly and the trainers since spring training. Now, Mattingly said he’ll ask Wilson again whether he’s healthy.
Mattingly also said he’s contemplating slipping Wilson out of the setup role so he can work out whatever’s troubling him -- which seems like a fairly obvious move since Wilson now has a 15.75 ERA and Chris Perez has a 1.69 mark.
“We’ll look at it. I don’t have to make that decision tonight. First, we’ll make sure he’s OK physically and then you maybe give him a chance to work on some things in those other innings, because we’ve got some other guys throwing the ball well,” Mattingly said. “I don’t think we need to make a huge decision, but if Brian throws the ball the way he’s capable of, that makes us pretty strong.”
If Wilson is headed in the direction Brandon League went a year ago, it could spell both short- and long-term trouble once again. Wilson, 32, is making $10 million this season and has a player option for next year for between $8.5 and $10 million, depending on incentives reached.