Kahnle set for first game since '20; Bickford unlikely for OD

March 30th, 2022

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers right-hander Tommy Kahnle took the next step in his rehab process on Tuesday. Kahnle, who has been rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery since 2020, threw his second -- and final -- live batting practice session of the spring.

Kahnle faced Mookie Betts, Andy Burns and Tomás Tellis. He was able to throw all his pitches, striking out Betts on a changeup. 

“I felt good,” Kahnle said. “I thought my command was pretty shoddy. But the action on the changeup was good. Fastball was OK. But overall, I felt good.”

With live BPs in the rearview mirror, the next step for Kahnle is to pitch in Saturday’s game against the Giants. It’ll be his first game action in nearly 20 months. When he clears that hurdle, Kahnle will go back to Los Angeles with the rest of the team. 

The plan for Kahnle is to go through a Spring Training-like progression over the next few weeks, which will include rehab assignments with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. Once he checks all the boxes, the Dodgers are hoping Kahnle will be ready to make his team debut by late April or early May. 

“I’ll be able to tell pretty much if I’m ready to go or not. These last [live BPs] have felt pretty good,” Kahnle said. “I think our plan right now will be the perfect amount of innings and just pitches and games that I need to get through and get on to the next step, which is coming back and joining the team.”

Getting a healthy Kahnle at some point this season would be a boost to the Dodgers’ bullpen. The right-hander was one of the Yankees’ best relievers in 2019, posting a 3.67 ERA and striking out 88 in 61 1/3 innings. He was limited to just one appearance in ‘20. 

The Dodgers signed Kahnle to a two-year deal during the ‘20 offseason with the expectation that he’d be a big part of the team’s bullpen this season. Kahnle admitted that the rehab took longer than expected, but he’s eager to show the Dodgers what he’s capable of accomplishing on the field. 

“I just wanted to make sure I was right and didn’t come back and do anything stupid and get re-injured or anything like that,” Kahnle said. “It’s been one hell of a long trip. That’s for sure.”

Bickford unlikely for Opening Day

Right-hander Phil Bickford will be another reliever the Dodgers will likely be without when they take the field on Opening Day against the Rockies. Bickford, who has not appeared in a Cactus League game this spring, came into camp behind on his buildup, according to manager Dave Roberts, and will miss some time.

Roberts added that Bickford is healthy now, but he did have arm soreness before camp began a few weeks ago. It’s unclear when Bickford will be ready for game action.

“I wouldn’t say injury,” Roberts said. “I just think before camp he shut himself down and once we got here we kind of assessed all our players and that’s where he was at. … He’s just behind.”

Bickford was one of the Dodgers’ surprise contributors last season. He was acquired from the Brewers in May and quickly became a high-leverage reliever. He posted a 2.81 ERA and struck out 59 over 51 1/3 innings in 2021.

With Bickford out for the start of the season, it opens the door for pitchers like Mitch White, Reyes Moronta and Garrett Cleavinger to make the Opening Day roster.