In honor of MLB hosting its ninth annual Civil Rights Game tonight at Dodger Stadium, coinciding with Jackie Robinson Day, we take a look at two Dodgers players on the mend. Both Kenley Jansen, who is originally from Curacao and signed with the Dodgers as an undrafted free agent in 2005, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, a South Korean pitcher who made his major league debut with the Dodgers in 2013, are beneficiaries of Jackie Robinson’s courageous efforts.
Kenley Jansen, RP, foot: For starters, we begin with the closer. Jansen started the season on the DL after having surgery to address a bony abnormality in his left foot. When I checked in with him during spring training, he was still on crutches and in a walking boot but was doing plenty to keep his throwing arm in shape, including tossing with one knee supported. For those who haven’t tried this before, not only is it an excellent way to continue to work the arm, it’s an outstanding workout for the core, not to mention a balance challenger. Jansen was doing about all he could, given the weight-bearing limitations for his foot while the bone healed. At the time, he indicated he expected to return in middle to late May.
So far, it would seem that Jansen’s projection remains on track. Soon he’ll get a chance to see just how much his modified arm workouts have maintained his throwing conditioning as he resumes his normal pitching position. Healing in his foot has progressed to the point where he can soon begin throwing downhill. Bullpens should be in order within the next week and then it becomes a matter of a progression to return to big league competition, including throwing to live hitters and making minor league appearances. For those who are eyeing a closer to add for the latter two-thirds of the season, Jansen is someone to consider targeting in fantasy.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP: While Jansen’s rehab is following a fairly linear trajectory based on established post-operative healing parameters, Ryu’s situation is less predictable. Ryu was moved to the disabled list to start the season due to inflammation in his throwing (left) shoulder. When he experienced discomfort in his shoulder in late March, Ryu received an injection and underwent an MRI, which reportedly revealed nothing major structurally.
After some quiet time to let his shoulder symptoms settle -- two weeks to be exact -- Ryu resumed playing catch last week. Given his recent history, however, the Dodgers likely will be cautious. Before the shoulder symptoms cropped up, Ryu had already experienced tightness in his mid-back while throwing a bullpen during spring training. He was shut down for a few days and the back symptoms resolved uneventfully, but the shoulder issue presented itself a few weeks later.
This is not the first instance of a shoulder problem for Ryu, making the situation more concerning. In September, Ryu did not pitch for nearly three weeks due to shoulder inflammation, but did return to make a postseason start in the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in early October. It wasn’t a bad outing, either, with Ryu allowing only one earned run across six innings pitched, including one walk and four strikeouts. But earlier in the season, in what is eerily similar timing to this year, Ryu went on the DL with shoulder inflammation and remained out for 23 days between late April and May. Despite strong performances between episodes, the repeat nature of Ryu’s shoulder symptoms within a relatively short time frame warrants attention.
No doubt it has the Dodgers’ attention and they are likely not to press him as he amps up his throwing program. Because he has yet to increase the intensity beyond playing catch, it’s hard to envision him making his throwing progression to return to competition before June. Of course, that presumes no setbacks in the interim, and that is far from guaranteed.