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Once worried his season was over, Blake Treinen calls return to Dodgers a ‘miracle’

For months, Blake Treinen had been coy about the shoulder injury that had kept him out since mid-April.

But sitting in the home dugout of Dodger Stadium on Saturday afternoon, one day after returning to the Dodgers’ active roster, the reliever finally revealed the full extent of his ailment — and how close he came to being knocked out for the season.

“The fact that I’m throwing this year,” he said, “is such a miracle.”

During a meeting with reporters, Treinen said publicly for the first time that he suffered a partially torn capsule in the front side of his throwing shoulder.

It was a serious injury, one he recalled team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache initially saying probably would end his season and require surgery.

Treinen, who had entered 2022 as the Dodgers’ most trusted reliever, took some time to consider his options but wasn’t optimistic about his chances of making a return.

“Obviously this organization was great and … they gave me multiple opinions and multiple doctors that have been around that injury to help me make the best decision for myself,” Treinen said. “But there were some heavy decisions to be made.”

Then, unexpectedly, Treinen caught a break.

During a follow-up evaluation on his shoulder, doctors found that his injury had scarred over, a surprising development that enabled him to avoid surgery and embark on a rehabilitation process that kept his season alive.

“In my mind, if I hadn’t scarred over, I probably would’ve leaned heavily on the idea of surgery,” Treinen said. “But the fact that it had scarred over, I think is just — I mean, it was such an answered prayer.”

A pending free agent, Treinen said the contract extension he and the Dodgers agreed to in May — which essentially guaranteed his club option for 2023 and added another club option for 2024 — allowed him to take financial considerations out of his decision-making process.

He also benefitted from conversations with pitching coach Mark Prior, whose own playing career came to an end in part because of a torn shoulder capsule.

“He was a huge help to me when it came to trusting certain parts of the process,” Treinen said.

The recovery wasn’t easy.

Treinen said he had platelet-rich plasma injections to try to speed up the process, but it still took a while to feel fully confident again in his health once he resumed throwing in June.

Dodgers relief pitcher Blake Treinen reacts after striking out San Francisco’s Donovan Solano in Game 3 of the National League Division Series in October.

(Marcio Sanchez / Associated Press)

Treinen said he had “to actually throw the crap out of the ball — for lack of a better term — in long toss instead of just guiding my arm to a slot and trying to keep it from having soreness or pain.”

After an extensive routine of bullpens and simulated games in July and early August, he spent almost three weeks on a rehab assignment with triple-A Oklahoma City.

“It’s been long,” he said. “There’s been some ups and downs. I’ve been pretty quiet about it. I don’t like putting the cart in front of the horse. But the biggest goal was to try to find a way to be healthy and contribute in any way.”

Treinen wasn’t dominant during his stint in Oklahoma City, giving up five runs (three earned) in six innings despite striking out nine batters and walking only one. His velocity fluctuated, with his fastball sometimes dipping as low as 92 mph.

On Saturday, however, he wrote off those inconsistencies as inevitable facets of a minor league rehab stint.

He insisted that potentially losing a few ticks on his fastball wouldn’t necessarily prevent him from being effective down the stretch.

“If I can compete with the right action [on my pitches], to me it doesn’t matter if my velo is averaging 95-96 versus 96-98 [mph],” he said. “It wouldn’t matter to me, as long as I can execute and have the action I had in the past.”

Treinen didn’t want to compare his stuff now to where it was before the injury, when he was coming off a 2021 performance in which he had a 1.99 ERA and cemented himself as the Dodgers’ best set-up man.

“Comparison is the killer of joy,” he said with a smirk. “So I’m not gonna go down that road of comparing myself to anything in the past. I’m going to try to be the best I can when I get out there.”

He added that he’s comfortable being slotted back into any role in the bullpen, which is how manager Dave Roberts said he planned to use the right-hander over the final month of the season.

“These guys have had a phenomenal year without me,” Treinen said of his teammates. “I just want to try and fit in however that works and not step on any toes or mess up any routines or rhythms that this team has established.

“Whatever capacity that I can help this team win down the stretch — if it’s what it’s been in the past, great. If it’s different, great. I’m just very grateful to be back and have an opportunity to pitch.”

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