Days before the MLB lockout began, the Players Association (MLBPA) distributed key guidelines to its members that among other items, noted those rehabbing from injury would still be permitted to use team facilities until medically cleared.
For the Los Angeles Dodgers, it figured to apply most prominently to Caleb Ferguson, Tommy Kahnle and Dustin May, all of whom are on the mend from Tommy John surgery. At the time, Justin Turner was recovering from a Grade 2 left hamstring strain as well.
However, as the MLB lockout arrived, injured and rehabbing players were no longer permitted to have any contact with team personnel or use their facilities. For Ferguson, it’s amounted to continuing his recovery from home in Ohio.
One factor working in his favor is Ferguson previously underwent Tommy John surgery as a senior in high school in 2014. During an appearance on “Dodger Talk,” Ferguson noted he’s better equipped to navigate the recovery process a second time around, via AM 570 L.A. Sports Radio:
“I don’t really remember a ton about my first one just because it was so long ago and I guess I didn’t even realize how severe of a surgery it was and how important it was. But I think with this one I was just more mature, kind of knew what to expect, knew that time was on my side and I wasn’t trying to rush through anything like I was when I was younger and didn’t realize it. Smoother process, too. I have more resources to go to and people to help me. Definitely a lot different than the first one.”
While the left-hander does feel more at ease now than after his first Tommy John operation, the ongoing lockout has still presented its fair share of challenges:
“That part does suck. Being a rehab guy, working with the [physical therapist] all summer long through the team and doing all that, and then not being able to talk to our medical team at all, the people that lead this whole thing, and just kind of being left in the dry, that’s definitely part of this lockout that sucks. We have to use a middleman for everything. Can’t pick up the phone and call our head trainer about what’s going on or anything like that, which really sucks. But it is what it is.
“We’ve got to use our middleman. Each time you get put on rehab and you come back your home state, you get set up with a [physical therapist] at home and you still do your work. It’s just with somebody else, and that’s who we have to go through. So I have to tell him, he has to email the team, the team has to email him. So a lot more steps to it than just picking up the phone, but it’s part of the lockout.”
After beginning his professional career as a starter but being used by the Dodgers in both the rotation and bullpen in 2018 and 2019, Ferguson was all but exclusively a relief pitcher during the 2020 campaign.
He went 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 21 appearances, with one of those being a start in a bullpen game. Ferguson suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his left elbow in September 2020.
How Ferguson can impact the Dodgers
While the Dodgers have not recently commented on Ferguson’s status, it was presumed he would begin close to a normal ramp-up when Spring Training began this week.
The left-hander is likely to remain a member of the Dodgers bullpen moving forward, and his importance to the team may only increase dependent on how free agency unfolds once the lockout ends.
Ferguson was among the four players the Dodgers tendered contracts to at the beginning of December.
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