LOS ANGELES — Dodgers pitcher Grant Dayton will miss his 35th and 36th games of the season this weekend. At least his down time has been productive.
Sometime after he first felt something in his neck in June, and before he threw off the Dodger Stadium mound before Friday’s game against the San Diego Padres, Dayton figured something out. The Dodgers are on pace to challenge the all-time record for regular-season wins (116), and Dayton thinks he knows why.
“Even though I hate being on the DL and I hate not competing, I do think that it’s probably the best thing for me in the long run,” Dayton said. “Even though there was an injury, being able to hit the reset button midseason – you don’t get to do that pretty much ever. This should be beneficial for me.”
Dayton had a 3.63 earned-run average when his neck stiffness first flared up. He came back to pitch two games in July and allowed four runs. In hindsight, he said, he came back too soon. His neck wasn’t 100 percent. Though he was encouraged by Friday’s pain-free mound session, there’s no target date for Dayton to return.
“But see, I think that’s why we’re so good, is because we can play 100 percent healthy,” he said. “You look at other teams – let’s just say Team X, their top guy gets a little bit hurt, his production goes down. If our top guy gets hurt we can throw him on the 10-day DL, bring somebody else up, and he can do their job. It’s not like we’re hoping our minor leaguers are good. We know that they are. Our depth is incredible.
“Being on the flip side, if you’re in the minor leagues it (stinks). Not only do (the Dodgers’ executives) have options, they don’t have to choose you because you’re playing so well. It’s log-jammed up here. But if you’re able to look at the big picture and not be selfish, that’s why we’re so good right now. We have the depth and we don’t have to play with guys being hurt.”
Looking at the big picture is easier said than done. Dayton, 29, has seen it from all sides in the span of four months.
The left-hander began the season with eight straight scoreless outings, building off his success as a rookie in 2016. In between, Dayton spent time on the disabled list with a minor intercostal strain. In May, he was optioned to Triple-A. In June he returned, but mechanical issues derailed his momentum. On June 30, he was on the DL again, this time with a stiff neck.
Now, he understands the value of not rushing back. The…