The ninth inning belongs to Kenley Jansen. And, according to the Dodgers’ plan, the eighth inning might often have belonged to Tom Koehler.
That plan appears in jeopardy, as the Dodgers brace for the results of an MRI examination on Koehler’s right shoulder.
“He’s a guy that we were counting on for high-leverage situations,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “To lose him for any extended period of time, yeah, that’s a big blow.”
Koehler was removed from Friday’s spring game after telling Roberts his right biceps “locked up” on a pitch. He faced four batters, walking two and giving up a home run and declined to speak with reporters after the game.
The Dodgers passed on proven and costly relievers this winter, signing Koehler for $2 million in the hope of turning him from a struggling starter into a successful reliever. He was the only free-agent pitcher the team signed to a major league contract.
Koehler, 31, was on the disabled list for one month last season because of bursitis in his right shoulder. He recovered, pitched well late in the season, and passed a physical examination after agreeing to a contract with the Dodgers.
He split last season between the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays, posting a 7.42 earned-run average in 13 starts and a 3.00 ERA in 14 relief appearances.
The Dodgers announced they would present their players with 2017 National League championship rings in a pregame ceremony March 31.
“We had a good year. There is something to be celebrated there,” ace Clayton Kershaw said. “But we also didn’t win, so there is something not to be celebrated too.”
Every team that has lost the World Series in this century has distributed league championship rings, often in an on-field ceremony. The Cleveland Indians, the losing team in the 2016 World Series, commemorated their American League championship and handed out rings before their home opener last year.
The Dodgers will honor Kirk Gibson and their last World Series championship team of 1988 before the first two games this season. The 2017 NL championship ceremony is scheduled before the third game.
“We won more games than anybody last year,” Roberts said. “We didn’t win the World Series, but that third game this season, to be honored with the National League championship rings, I think that will be exciting.”
That dreaded whirlpool
The Dodgers identified the illness that swept through their clubhouse this week as a norovirus, spokesman Joe Jareck said. The virus sickened 26 players, or 40% of the 65 players in camp.
Of the 26 players, 22 used the clubhouse whirlpool. Roberts said the Dodgers were not entirely sure the whirlpool was to blame but had it decontaminated anyway.
More than 300 staffers and volunteers were sickened by a norovirus outbreak at last month’s Olympics in South Korea. That outbreak was traced to contaminated water used for food preparation.
Roberts said he hoped Corey Seager, one of the affected players, could return as a designated hitter Monday. Seager has yet to play shortstop, as the team has put him on a throwing program to rebuild strength in his right elbow. Roberts said Seager could be ready to play the field in the season opener so long as he could play seven or eight Cactus League games at shortstop.