What Grant Dayton thought would be his last warmup pitch before a relief appearance for double-A Tulsa on Aug. 18 will be the last pitch he throws in a competitive situation for at least a year.
Dayton, the Dodgers’ primary left-handed reliever during their 2016 playoff run, felt a “pop” in his elbow on that last fastball, and an MRI test confirmed a full tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. Dayton will undergo ligament-replacement surgery on Tuesday and be out for 12-18 months.
“The ball was coming out of my hand great; it took just one pitch to change everything,” Dayton, 29, said. “It’s frustrating because this is an amazing team, and I’m not gonna be a part of it down the stretch. It’s been an up-and-down year. I was hoping to redeem myself in September and be on a playoff roster. Those dreams obviously came to an end.”
Dayton made his major league debut last July when the Dodgers, who acquired him from Miami in 2015, called him up from triple A. Dayton had a 2.05 ERA in 25 appearances in 2016, striking out 39 and walking six in 26 1/3 innings.
Dayton was not as effective this season. Slowed by a rib-cage strain, neck stiffness and recurring elbow problems, he went 1-1 with a 4.94 ERA in 29 games, striking out 20 and walking 12 in 23 2/3 innings.
The elbow injury, which Dayton suffered on a minor league rehabilitation assignment, “wasn’t a surprise to me, because I’ve seen MRIs of my elbow before,” he said.
“I was told the UCL was already in bad shape, but if it’s in bad shape and it doesn’t present any pain, who cares? There’s no telling how long it’s been that way, but quite frankly, it wasn’t giving me any problems.”
Dr. Neal ElAttrache will perform the surgery, after which Dayton will go to Arizona to begin his recovery.
“It’s a big blow,” manager Dave Roberts said. “For him personally, it’s tough, because as a competitor you want to see things through.”
Walker Buehler, recently named the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year, has pitched in relief in his last six triple-A appearances, an indication the Dodgers are considering the right-hander for such a role in September and, possibly, October.
Buehler, 23, a first-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2015, is 3-3 with a 3.26 ERA in 25 games, 19 starts, across Class-A Inland Empire, Tulsa and Oklahoma City this season. He has struck out 121 and walked 29 in 85 2/3 innings.
Featuring a 98-mph fastball, curve, slider and changeup, Buehler has been inconsistent in relief, giving up five earned runs and 11 hits, including one homer, in 10 1/3 innings, striking out 15 and walking three.
“He’s transitioning to this new role,” Roberts said. “We’re very sensitive to having guys here who fit a certain role and have a purpose, and we haven’t made that decision with Walker.”
Ross Stripling, who has a 3.41 ERA in 35 relief appearances after pitching as a starter in his first five professional seasons, will make a spot-start against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night.
The right-hander hasn’t thrown more than two innings or 33 pitches in his last seven games, but he’s confident he can cover three or four innings and throw 45-50 pitches. Josh Ravin, Edward Paredes and Tony Cingrani will likely back him up.
“It will essentially be a bullpen day,” Roberts said.
Cody Bellinger (right-ankle sprain) ran 90 feet at about 80%, did some agility drills and took batting practice on the field Friday. “The swelling has gone down, and it’s feeling good,” said Bellinger, who is batting .274 with a team-leading 34 homers and 79 RBIs. “There’s no pain.” … Right-hander Brandon McCarthy, on the disabled list since July 23 because of a blister problem, began a rehab stint with Rancho Cucamonga on Friday. McCarthy threw three shutout innings against Inland Empire, giving up no hits, striking out two and walking three. Roberts said he will need “multiple rehab starts” before returning. … Left-hander Adam Liberatore, limited by forearm tightness to four appearances, began a rehab stint with an Arizona Summer League appearance Thursday. “He’s on our radar for September, but he’ll need some time,” Roberts said.
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