LOS ANGELES ― The Dodgers’ bullpen churned through yet another player transaction Monday. The latest arrival was not the most obvious.
Caleb Ferguson was activated from the 10-day injured list prior to the Dodgers’ game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. An appearance Monday would mark the end of a 608-day layoff since his last major league game.
Ferguson tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow on Sept. 15, 2020, underwent Tommy John surgery, and had appeared in only a handful of Triple-A rehab games since. Few of them went well.
Ferguson was allowing opponents to hit .417 and slug .667. He allowed three runs on four hits, including a home run, while retiring just two batters on May 8 in Oklahoma City. Of his six rehab games, none featured a clean inning.
After his most recent appearance on Friday, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said the next step in Ferguson’s rehab process was “to pitch well.”
Monday, Ferguson was back in a major league bullpen for the first time in nearly two years.
“We recalled him out of need,” Roberts said. “We’ll see where it takes us.”
Right-hander Michael Grove, who made his major league debut on Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies, was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City in a corresponding move.
Ferguson is 10-5 with a 3.93 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 96 games (six starts) over three seasons with the Dodgers. He’s now the fifth pitcher to join the bullpen from the minors in the last five days. One, Garrett Cleavinger, has already come and gone.
The transaction churn will continue Tuesday. Veteran David Price was in the clubhouse and declared himself ready to return three weeks and two days after he was placed on the COVID-19 injured list. Price made four appearances prior to the IL stint, allowing one run in 4⅔ innings.
The Dodgers have a doubleheader Tuesday against Arizona. Teams are allowed to make roster changes between the first and second games. Both Price and Ryan Pepiot, who is expected to start the early game, will need to be activated.
Andrew Heaney will throw his first bullpen session on Tuesday since he was placed on IL with a left shoulder injury on April 20.
The left-hander “bought in completely” to the Dodgers’ rehab program and has been clocked at 86-87 mph while playing catch, Roberts said. Heaney had not allowed a run in two starts prior to the injury.
Clayton Kershaw played catch for a second consecutive day as the left-hander recovers from right SI joint inflammation.
The Dodgers embraced the “opener” strategy last season, routinely deploying a relief pitcher in the first inning in lieu of a traditional starter, who instead pitched in relief.
Roberts has so far eschewed the strategy in 2022, and he expects this to continue. That suggests Ryan Pepiot will get a traditional start if he pitches in Game 1 on Tuesday against the Diamondbacks, as expected.
“Now, this year, teams are more (likely) to not have one set lineup,” Roberts said. “It takes away a little of the opener effect.”
Arizona (Merrill Kelly, 3-1, 1.71 and TBD) at Dodgers (TBD and Tyler Anderson, 3-0, 4.40 ERA), Tuesday, 12:10 p.m. and 7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA (Games 1 and 2) and MLB Network (Game 2), 570 AM