Wilson's toils raise early questions in 'pen

Brought in as setup man in eighth, former World Series hero struggles out of gate

Wilson's toils raise early questions in 'pen

SAN DIEGO -- What's wrong with Brian Wilson?

The Dodgers are asking themselves that question after watching the onetime World Series hero blow a lead and the game in a 3-1 loss to the Padres on Sunday night. Wilson didn't look right -- throwing 13 balls out of 25 pitches -- a sudden lack of command and velocity raising suspicions he isn't sound.

"Definitely unlike him," manager Don Mattingly said after the game.

There's a lot of mileage on Wilson's 32-year-old right arm, which already has undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries.

In fact, there's a lot of mileage on the Dodgers' roster. If there's an obvious vulnerability with this collection of talent that costs $235 million in payroll this year, it's that 15 of the 25 active players are at least 30 years old.

That includes six of the eight starting position players and three of the starting pitchers -- Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Paul Maholm.

Wilson, who returned from his second elbow operation last year and was lights-out in 13 1/3 innings for the Dodgers, then parlayed that into a $10 million salary to set up 26-year-old closer Kenley Jansen.

But Wilson couldn't get the lead to Jansen on Sunday night. It was only one mishap, but the Dodgers have another eighth-inning option in Chris Perez, who said he is healthy again and is throwing the way he did when closing for Cleveland.

Perez struck out the only batter he faced after inheriting the jam from Wilson, and he was followed by Paco Rodriguez, who struck out the two batters he faced. Perez and Rodriguez are 28 and 22, respectively. Chris Withrow turns 25 on Tuesday. Brandon League (31), J.P. Howell (30) and Jamey Wright (39) round out the bullpen.

Greinke will start on Tuesday against former Diamondbacks righty Ian Kennedy and the Padres. Haren, who threw a bullpen session on Monday, will start the series finale on Wednesday.

The club hasn't announced pitchers beyond that, but Mattingly is hoping to start Hyun-Jin Ryu in Friday night's home opener against the Giants -- which apparently is why he was lifted with a seven-inning shutout Sunday night after making a modrest 88 pitches. If Ryu is ready for Friday night, he would be followed in the Giants series by Maholm on Saturday and Greinke on Sunday.

The disabling injury to Clayton Kershaw, who might have started Friday night, has elevated Maholm back into a likely starting spot. Another option is 33-year-old Josh Beckett, who threw a three-inning, 48-pitch simulated game Monday. Because Beckett is coming off thoracic outlet syndrome, then a bruised hand, the staff has been targeting mid-April for his return. Even with Kershaw's injury, that apparently hasn't changed.

Beckett faced three hitters in his sim game -- Matt Kemp, Justin Turner and Chone Figgins. Kemp didn't swing particularly effectively, but he's eligible to be activated off the disabled list on Friday, and it just might happen.

Monday's limited workout was important enough to draw Mattingly, pitching coaches Rick Honeycutt and Chuck Crim, and front-office officials Gerry Hunsicker, Rick Ragazzo, Vance Lovelace and Alex Tamin.

Everybody seems convinced that Kemp has physically healed from his left ankle and shoulder operations. He's played enough Minor League games in Arizona to make the value of a further Minor League rehabilitation assignment dubious.

At some point, the only way Kemp will resume his Major League career is in the Major Leagues, even if it means the club bites the bullet and plays him back into a big league hitter -- struggles and all.

That will finally put Mattingly into the long-awaited dilemma of shoe-horning four outfielders into three spots, juggling Kemp with Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig.

For now, though, Mattingly probably wishes he had too many healthy starting pitchers, instead of not enough.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.