Injury issues mounting for Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- It was like being in a hospital ward, albeit without the antiseptic smell and the old people. It was about as quiet, too, after what was left of the Los Angeles Dodgers had sleepwalked their way through another hypnotic defeat, this time 5-1 to the Chicago Cubs before 28,418 on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.

Most of the questions down in that Dodgers' medical center/clubhouse weren't about that, though. Almost all of the questions, in fact, had to do with elbows, hands, X-rays, MRIs and the immediate travel plans of team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who coincidentally will be in New York when the team arrives there Thursday.

It does seem rather appropriate, after all, that at the end of a transcontinental flight the Dodgers will be greeted by an orthopedic surgeon.

Such is life these days for a team that's manager and most of its players continue to insist they aren't concerned about the on-going uncertainty -- and possibly dwindling days -- of Frank McCourt's ownership of the team. They don't really have time to be concerned with that because they have too many of their own problems. Problems like nine different players who are or have been on the disabled list a combined 10 times in the team's first 32 games this season.

So far, closer Jonathan Broxton (right elbow), hot-hitting infielder Juan Uribe (right hand) and right fielder Andre Ethier (left elbow), he of the 29-game hitting streak, haven't landed on the DL themselves.

Of the three, Broxton would seem to be the most likely. The closer with the 5.68 ERA will meet with ElAttrache after the doctor has a chance to review results of the MRI exam Broxton took before the game to determine the cause of stiffness in his right elbow. Broxton he finally got around to telling trainer Stan Conte, manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt about that when he arrived at the park in the morning -- although Mattingly and Honeycutt already suspected it to the point they were watching film to determine if they could spot it.

"It's fine when I'm throwing," Broxton said. "But then afterward, it stiffens up when I start cooling down. ... If it was something serious, I don't think I would be able to throw at all. As long as there is no pain out there throwing, I'm fine."

Except that he looked anything but fine Tuesday night, when he entered to start the ninth inning with the score tied, issued consecutive one-out walks and looked so discombobulated in doing so that Mattingly yanked him.

Broxton said he didn't feel anything on the mound, but he didn't say his elbow wasn't affecting his pitching.

"I can't say it's not," he said.

Uribe, meanwhile, was hit by a pitch from volatile Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano (4-1) in the fourth inning and left the game two innings later. He was taken for X-rays of his hand, which were negative, and Uribe predicted he will return to the lineup in time for Friday night's series opener against the New York Mets.

"It's good," he said upon returning to the M*A*S*H unit, er, clubhouse.

And then there was Ethier, who had started every game this season in right field but was scratched from this one about an hour before it started because of worsening discomfort in his left elbow he has been dealing with for more than two weeks. He was available to pinch hit but wasn't asked to, so his 29-game hitting streak remains intact.

Ethier was non-committal on his own status for Friday.

"I don't know," he said. "We'll see."

Ethier said he initially did something to his elbow -- "I don't know if I hyperextended it or jammed it," he said -- while sliding into home on James Loney's run-scoring groundout April 16 against the St. Louis Cardinals and that it hasn't felt quite right since then, although it affects him much more throwing the ball than it does hitting. While he has no specific tests scheduled, he does plan to meet with ElAttrache in New York.

"Hopefully, it's nothing serious that he finds and it's just a sore elbow or a bone bruise," Ethier said. "I'll just have to deal with it in the meantime."

Just dealing with it is what the Dodgers (15-17) basically have been doing all season. The result was that they went into a series rubber game with the Cubs with a lineup dotted with names such as Aaron Miles, Jay Gibbons, Dioner Navarro and Russell Mitchell. That created a scenario in which starter Ted Lilly (3-2) more or less had to be perfect, and he wasn't.

It could be worse, one supposes, for a team that is doing what it can to remain competitive despite being without its regular shortstop (Rafael Furcal), its regular third baseman (Casey Blake) and one of its big bats off the bench. Then again, it might be worse. At the very least, once the plane touches down in New York, there will be no shortage of people hanging on ElAttrache's every word.

"We can't really afford to lose any more guys," Mattingly said.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.