Elbert tosses pain-free bullpen session
Dodgers lefty allays concern after bout of shoulder tendinitis
PHOENIX -- The Dodgers had their first injury scare of 2010 even before Spring Training opened when fifth-starter candidate Scott Elbert experienced shoulder soreness in local workouts two weeks ago.
The diagnosis was tendinitis, Elbert was shut down for 10 days, and he came back with a pain-free bullpen session Thursday that somewhat eased staff concern. His next bullpen session is scheduled for Monday.
Anybody who has followed the career of the former first-round pick, however, knows that any shoulder discomfort is a red flag. In 2007, Elbert overdid it trying to impress in Spring Training and eventually needed surgery to tack down a torn labrum and remove scar tissue.
So, with that medical backdrop, when he reached down to pick up his 14-month-old daughter and couldn't get her off the ground because of the pain, he got a little concerned.
"What I felt was in a different place than the surgery, this time on top of the shoulder, so I knew it wasn't the same thing," said Elbert. "But whenever your arm is hurting just when you're walking around the house, you don't know how bad it could be.
"They said it was tendinitis, that I overworked it and it flared up. They gave me some [anti-inflammatory] medication to calm it down and my arm felt great when I threw Thursday. I hope it doesn't come back."
Elbert, 24, knows this could be his breakthrough spring. He comes in as a legitimate candidate in the scramble for the fifth spot in the rotation. Most of the staff believes Elbert's live fastball and sharp slider make him a viable starting pitcher, even though his 30 Major League appearances (including one in last year's playoffs) have all been in relief.
Elbert had four big league callups in '09 and made 18 starts while in the Minors, where he earned the organization's award as Minor League Pitcher of the Year while striking out 125 in 96 innings.
"He got yo-yoed the second half last year," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "We're going to work him as a starter and get him as many innings as possible, but we'll also have to keep an eye on him."
Elbert said he was more frustrated than worried when the pain surfaced.
"I worked hard all offseason and wanted to be ready to go," he said. "I was disappointed at the time, but I feel a lot better after Thursday."
Honeycutt said several other pitchers with recent injury histories threw bullpen sessions Sunday in the batting cages, as morning rain kept the workouts off the fields.
Starter Hiroki Kuroda, disabled twice last year and bothered during the offseason by a herniated disk, threw without a problem.
"He looked fine today," said Honeycutt. "He's been off the mound six times so far. I'd prefer a couple more, but he was good."
Starter Vicente Padilla threw in front of the staff for the first time since accidentally shooting himself through the right thigh.
"No issues there," said Honeycutt. "I was very fine with it."
Reliever Justin Miller, a non-roster invitee who made 44 appearances for the Giants last year, is another pitcher Honeycutt said will be monitored because he underwent offseason elbow surgery to remove debris.
Honeycutt said reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, whose battle-scarred left elbow was sore all last spring, appears to be as healthy as he can be.
"The guys who saw him throw the other day said he looked tremendous," said Honeycutt.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.