LOS ANGELES--The Dodgers had questions about Ted Lilly's health and his transition to the bullpen, so they designated the veteran left-hander for assignment on Thursday.
The decision to cut ties with Lilly came one day after he was activated from the disabled list for the third time this season. The Dodgers have 10 days to either place Lilly on waivers, release him or trade him. In a corresponding roster move, the Dodgers promoted utility man Elian Herrera from Triple-A Albuquerque.
"I'm obviously not happy about what happened," said Lilly, who was 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA in five starts. "It's a pretty big turn of events. I went from being activated yesterday to them changing their mind today."
After a career as a starter, Lilly hoped to contribute in a relief role when he came off the DL Wednesday in Toronto. He felt his body could not handle a starter's workload due to degenerative arthritis in his neck. He's also missed time with a strained ribcage muscle and lingering effects from last year's shoulder surgery.
Lilly has not pitched in the Major Leagues since June 4. The Dodgers wanted him to pitch out of the bullpen on a Minor League rehab assignment to give the club an idea of how long it took him to warm up and how his body would respond to pitching more than once every five days. But Lilly believed he did not need to rehab in the Minors. Instead, he threw several simulated games before being activated.
"I felt like I was ready to help us win games," Lilly said. "There was a difference of opinion there. I think it's a situation that wasn't great for anyone."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said there wasn't room for Lilly in a bullpen that has been much improved this month.
"It was just tough for us without seeing him, to displace one of the guys we have now," Mattingly said. "Of our lefties, Paco [Rodriguez] and J.P. [Howell] are doing their job."
Still, Mattingly said Lilly's health was the main reason the Dodgers designated him for assignment.
But Lilly said his neck hasn't bothered him for at least two weeks and he's "not far away" from being able to start.
"It's definitely the healthiest I've been in a long time," said Lilly, who expects to land with another Major League club. "Unfortunately, it took me this long."
The Dodgers acquired Lilly from the Cubs via trade in 2010. After going 12-12 with a 3.52 ERA, he signed a three-year, $33 million contract. Lilly made 33 starts in 2011, but has started just 13 games over the past two seasons.
"Without a doubt, coming in here and signing a three-year deal, playing one full year of that is difficult from my perspective," Lilly said. "That's been the biggest disappointment for me."
A year in, Dodgers thrilled with Hanley trade
LOS ANGELES -- Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the trade that brought shortstop Hanley Ramirez over from the Marlins, a deal that has worked out well for the Dodgers.
Los Angeles sent pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough to Miami in exchange for reliever Randy Choate and Ramirez, who has a .313 batting average with 20 home runs, 25 doubles and 75 RBIs in 109 games with the Dodgers.
"It's been a good trade, obviously," manager Don Mattingly said. "I was really excited when we got him. You don't find many Hanleys out there. You don't find guys with that kind of talent, that kind of swing and ability. I think it was a great deal for us."
Ramirez was typically the only star player for the Marlins during his seven seasons in Florida, and credits the veteran presence in the Dodgers' clubhouse for much of his success with his new club.
"I'm just really happy to be in L.A., this is unbelievable," Ramirez said. "I think I've become a better ballplayer. It's different when you've got more veterans than when everybody is young."
Mattingly said he's noticed Ramirez mature in just one year.
"This is a good situation for him," Mattingly said. "I've had zero issues with Hanley, and that's been the best thing. Hanley has been great."
Ramirez has been even better since coming off the disabled list on June 4, leading the National League with a .375 average and .674 slugging percentage entering play Thursday. He's reached base in 32 consecutive games since June 19.
• Dodgers starting pitcher Stephen Fife, on the disabled list since July 7 with right shoulder bursitis, will make a second Minor League rehab start this weekend, according to Mattingly.
Fife threw 63 pitches in four innings with Triple-A Albuquerque on Monday, charged with two runs on four hits with six strikeouts and one walk. Fife is 3-3 with a 2.76 ERA in eight starts for the Dodgers.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.