PHILADELPHIA — Fear the Beard is about to give way to Welcome the Whiskers for the Dodgers, who could activate prodigiously coiffed reliever Brian Wilson as early as Sunday.
Wilson hasn't pitched in the majors since undergoing Tommy John surgery 16 months ago. But he faced five hitters in a simulated game Friday at Citizens Bank Park, and Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said that was the last obstacle the right-hander, a three-time All-Star with the San Francisco Giants, would have to clear before being added to the Dodgers roster.
"The next step for us is to see how he comes out of this one," said Mattingly, who plans to use the former closer in a setup role.
Wilson, 31, made four minor league rehab appearances, allowing just one baserunner in 4 1/3 innings, since signing with the Dodgers last month.
"Everything's good. Everything's progressing," Wilson said after his first appearance in a major league ballpark since April 2012. "It's a step, absolutely. Any time I get on the mound it's positive. There's progression."
Nearly a third of all big league pitchers have had Tommy John surgery, but Wilson's case is unusual because he's undergone the procedure twice, first in 2003 during his junior year at Louisiana State and again last spring.
"I went in to it with no expectations because it's an unknown surgery the second time," Wilson said of the approach he took toward his return. "Basically I said when I wake up one day and I feel ready, I'll make some phone calls. And that's what happened.
"I just needed a ballclub to give me an opportunity. And obviously when these guys gave me the opportunity, I was truly honored."
Wilson wore Nos. 38 and 33 during his seven seasons with the Giants but on the Dodgers those numbers belong to disabled reliever Shawn Tolleson and outfielder Scott Van Slyke, respectively. So when Wilson walked to the bullpen with the rest of the team's relievers Friday he had a pair of zeros on his back.
"I figured that one probably had no chance of being taken," Wilson said.
Gordon shipped, Ethier sits
The Dodgers, convinced that Hanley Ramirez can play every day at shortstop, sent Dee Gordon back to triple-A Albuquerque on Friday and recalled Van Slyke to take his place on the roster. This is Van Slyke's fourth stint with the team this year, and he marked it by starting in right field, giving Andre Ethier more time to rest his tight left calf.
Another reason to start Van Slyke: Ethier is hitless in eight career at-bats against Phillies starter Cliff Lee.
"It's nothing to do with health. It's more to do with that computer kicks him out today," Mattingly said of Ethier, who pinch-hit against reliever Cesar Jimenez in the ninth, grounding out with runners at the corners.
Van Slyke, meanwhile, had a run-scoring single and stole his first base of the season.