Jon Garland “is on track to return as early as April 15”

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Jon Garland has been sidelined since early March with a strained oblique muscle, but Owen Perkins of MLB.com reports that he could be cleared to join the Dodgers’ rotation “as early as April 15.”

Before that happens he’ll need to avoid setbacks while throwing a bullpen session Friday and then making a minor-league rehab start at Single-A, so manager Don Mattingly stressed that an April 15 return would be “the best-case scenario.”

By signing Garland to a one-year deal this offseason the Dodgers headed into spring training with six starters for five rotation spots, but Garland’s strained oblique muscle and Vicente Padilla’s forearm surgery quickly caused that depth to vanish.

Mattingly told Perkins that Garland has been pushing hard to come off the disabled list sooner than the Dodgers have mapped out, which isn’t surprising given that his incentive-laden contract has significant bonuses based on innings.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉