Advertisement

Adrian Gonzalez shut down for two weeks with elbow inflammation

Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez signals that he's safe after getting tagged out at home plate by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras during Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Oct. 19.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Adrian Gonzalez slipped a compression sleeve over his right elbow as he finished up his first day this spring at Camelback Ranch. From a few lockers away, Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager pondered his teammate’s outfit. The garb screamed golf.

“Where you going to play?” Seager asked.

“No, no,” Gonzalez said. “I can’t play.”

Gonzalez does not intend to swing a club, or, more importantly for his employers, swing a bat for the next two weeks. He has been sidelined for the past 10 days due to inflammation in his non-throwing elbow, which cropped up during his offseason workouts. He referred to the injury as a case of “tennis elbow,” even though he does not own a racket.

Advertisement

The Dodgers do not consider the ailment to be a serious concern. Gonzalez, 34, has appeared in at least 156 games in each of his last 11 seasons. That number could diminish in 2017 as the team looks to protect its workhorse at first base. Gonzalez faded in September last season and finished the season with a .784 on-base plus slugging percentage, his lowest mark since 2005.

The injury is not expected to affect Gonzalez’s readiness for opening day. But it does jeopardize his availability for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. Managed by Gonzalez’s brother Edgar, the team is slated to play games outside Guadalajara in three weeks. Gonzalez is unsure if he’ll be ready to face live pitching at that point.

Throughout the winter, Gonzalez dueled on social media with teammate Joc Pederson regarding their offseason fitness programs. The pair traded videos on Twitter and Instagram showing off their respective workouts. But for Gonzalez, who often spars during the winter, the posts petered out in late January.

As he rotated between the weight room, the batting cage and the boxing ring, Gonzalez noticed pain radiated from his elbow down his forearm. It hurt to grip a bat and to squeeze the baseball when receiving throws. When the discomfort lingered, he stopped trying to power through it. A doctor’s examination this week revealed his condition.

Advertisement

“It’s tough to put it like this, but it’s being punished for working too hard,” Gonzalez said. “You work so hard in the offseason to get ready, and then your body says, ‘You worked too hard.’”

Despite the team’s condition in Gonzalez’s eventual return, his absence at the start of the Cactus League schedule adds intrigue to a spring that will feature position battles in the outfield, starting rotation and bullpen. With Gonzalez down, the team’s primary backup first baseman appears to be Scott Van Slyke, who is also battling with recent addition Franklin Gutierrez to make the club as a backup outfielder. Rob Segedin will receive at-bats, too.

The Dodgers also plan to try Chase Utley at first base. A second baseman in the majors for the past 14 seasons, Utley felt uncomfortable while learning third base last spring. The footwork at first base is believed to be less complicated, which could ease his transition, if necessary.

Logan Forsythe has appeared at first base in 19 games during his career. As the regular second baseman, he is considered more likely to spell Justin Turner at third base when needed. Manager Dave Roberts considers Forsythe an above-average defender at that corner.

Advertisement

Even with Gonzalez shelved for a fortnight, the Dodgers were willing to part with potential replacement Darin Ruf. The team sold his contract to the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization, the Lions announced. Acquired during the winter in exchange for dumping Howie Kendrick’s $10 million salary on the Phillies, Ruf was unlikely to make the opening day roster.

The Dodgers have also signed first baseman Ike Davis to a minor-league contract. He hit 32 home runs as a 25-year-old with the Mets in 2012, but marred by injuries in recent years, he has hit only 14 in the past three seasons.

Gonzalez maintained an air of calm about the situation. The medical staff informed him his body should respond well to the rest, which would allow him to jump back into the rhythm of spring training when ready.

“Luckily, it’s nothing serious,” Gonzalez said. “Nothing to be worried about. I’ll be shut down for two weeks, and then in two weeks I should be 100%.”

Advertisement

andy.mccullough@latimes.com

Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter @McCulloughTimes


Advertisement