Zack Greinke's return to mound For Los Angeles Dodgers seems too soon

By Matthew Muench
Jake Roth-USA Today Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke appears to be recovering from his broken left collarbone faster than expected. The right-hander is scheduled to make his first rehab start for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga tonight at Lake Elsinore less than four weeks removed from getting off the operation table.

He was injured during his second start of the season after taking a hit from San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin, who charged the mound after getting plunked by Greinke. At the time, doctors said Greinke would miss eight weeks. Now the L.A. Times suggests he could be lined up to pitch next week at Dodger Stadium against the Washington Nationals. Really?

Why the rush? How does eight weeks go to four? I am no doctor, but it seems like the Dodgers are rushing injured players back on the field and crossing their fingers too much in 2013. They haven’t handled injuries well all season and a fragile shoulder is not something you should mess with – even if it is Greinke’s non-throwing shoulder, and even if he has responded well in two bullpen sessions this week.

The track record of how the Dodgers bench has handled injuries this year isn’t promising. It started in the offseason when Chad Billingsly declined elbow surgery in the winter. To no one’s surprise, he was shelved for the season and had Tommy John surgery after making his second start.

When Mark Ellis went down last month with a strained quad, he sat on the bench for 10 days as Don Mattingly and co. hoped it would just heal. It never did and they finally put him on the DL last week. But, because they delayed the process so long, the Dodgers were shorthanded on the bench in crucial games against the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants.

Jerry Hairston also went through the same problem.He strained his groin and the Dodgers sat on that injury for a few days until finally putting him on the DL last week after realizing Dr. Miracle isn’t showing up.

Now, the Dodgers are dealing with a tight hamstring from Carl Crawford and a stiff neck from Adrian Gonzalez. Crawford has been in and out of the lineup the last week while nursing the injury, and Gonzalez’s injury is like the Dodgers offense these days – hit and miss, but with less miss. He says he is fine, but he pulled himself out of the game on Wednesday.

Yes, these games in May are important. But the big picture right now for L.A. is getting healthy and not worrying about the playoffs this soon. There should be no rush to get injured players back in the lineup this early. There is no need to worry about your Christmas shopping in July or your Halloween costume in February.

The Dodgers need to focus on getting healthy in May and be at full strength by July for a postseason push this fall.

Matthew Muench writes about the Los Angeles Dodgers for Follow him on Twitter @MatthewMuench

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