It is not known if Lilly will need surgery, but the Dodgers are concerned enough that they were looking for a long-term solution by negotiating with free agent Roy Oswalt before bowing out over his financial demands. Lilly is in the second year of a three-year, $33 million contract.
The initial sign that Lilly's start was in jeopardy was the sudden audible of Eovaldi from a Saturday night start to a one-inning relief tune-up. Eovaldi was called up briefly this year, but did not pitch.
Manager Don Mattingly remained noncommittal when asked if Eovaldi's Saturday appearance (he struck out all three batters he faced) could be a sign of an imminent roster move.
"I guess it could be," he said.
The club's vague explanation on Lilly's situation apparently was to allow negotiations with Oswalt without compromising its leverage by confirming a problem with any current starters, especially if the problem is a serious injury. Oswalt hasn't pitched all year and would need the equivalent of Spring Training.
Lilly's injury explains his first loss, and worst start, of the season Wednesday night in Arizona, where he allowed eight runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings.
Mattingly did shoot down the suggestion that Eovaldi would move into Chad Billingsley's spot in the rotation. Billingsley battled through five innings Saturday night, allowing two runs with three walks, but also striking out eight. He was in position for his third win until the bullpen let an eighth-inning lead get away.
"Nate's one inning has nothing to do with Bills," said Mattingly. "We've got five guys in the rotation. I don't know why we single out Bills so much."
Mattingly went on to defend Billingsley for "continuing to work on things to be more consistent. Sometimes it's easier said than done.
"I saw in the stats he's one of three pitchers to win 10 games for so many years. Not a lot of guys can say that. It depends where you put the mark. Is he supposed to win 20 games every year? Is it 14, 12?"