Dodgers shortstop Gavin Lux injures right knee in spring training game

Peoria AZ - February 27: Los Angeles Dodgers' Gavin Lux is loaded onto a cart with the help of a trainer.
Dodgers shortstop Gavin Lux is helped to his feet by manager Dave Roberts, right, and a trainer after injuring his right knee Monday against the San Diego Padres. (K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Three games into spring training, the Dodgers might already be facing a potentially devastating injury.

Starting shortstop Gavin Lux suffered what appeared to be a painful and possibly serious right knee injury in a spring training game against the San Diego Padres on Monday, when his knee buckled while he was running from second to third base in the top of the sixth inning.

Lux was on the ground for several minutes writhing in pain, before being taken off the field on the back of a golf cart.

According to manager Dave Roberts, the 25-year-old “heard a pop” on the outside of his knee. Roberts described the injury on SportsNet LA as “something lateral” and added that manual tests performed by medical staff at the stadium were inconclusive. After the game, Lux was on his way to get an MRI exam.

"We don’t know a whole lot right now," Roberts said. "I think right now we’re just hoping it’s more benign and not anything substantial."

After hitting a single in his third at-bat of the game and advancing to second on a walk, Lux broke for third when Luke Williams hit a grounder toward third base.

As Padres infielder Jantzen Witte threw to second, Lux seemed to try to duck out of the way of the ball. That’s when his knee buckled, appearing to bend backward and sending him tumbling to the dirt.

Lux immediately grabbed his knee as he rolled on the ground. Third base coach Dino Ebel motioned for a trainer right away.

“Any time you're holding a knee,” said Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts, who watched Lux leave the game from the dugout, “that's always a bad situation.”

Roberts knelt down next to Lux as he was treated on the field.

“He was pretty shaken up,” Roberts said. “I think [his] first thought goes to the worst-case scenario. That’s kind of the nature of a player.”

After being helped to his feet and hobbling onto the back of a cart, Lux was driven off the field and back to the visiting clubhouse at Peoria Sports Complex.

Roberts said Dodgers and Padres medical staff members “did some tests manually” that showed “there was strength there.”

"What that means,” Roberts continued, “I really don’t know.”

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman emerged from the clubhouse about an hour after Lux got hurt and told reporters, "We don’t know anything yet.”

If Lux is forced to miss any extended time, it could create major problems for a new-look Dodgers team.

Gavin Lux leaves the field on the back of a golf cart after injuring his right knee Monday in Peoria, Ariz.
Gavin Lux leaves the field on the back of a golf cart after injuring his right knee Monday in a spring training game in Peoria, Ariz. (K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

After Trea Turner's offseason signing with the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Dodgers’ decision to not heavily pursue any other top shortstop on the free-agent market, Lux entered spring positioned to be the club’s everyday player at the position — a role the former first-round pick had targeted since being drafted by the team in 2016.

Lux's defense at shortstop was something of a question. And it took him a couple of seasons to become established in the big leagues after his 2019 debut.

But Lux’s improvements at the plate last season, when he batted .276 while playing second base, made him the clear choice to become Turner’s replacement.

Lux had career highs in several categories last season including games (129), hits (116), batting average and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.745).

The only other realistic shortstop candidate was Miguel Rojas, a January trade acquisition from the Miami Marlins who has a highly touted glove but is a below-average hitter coming off his worst career season in 2022, as well as two offseason surgeries on his right hand and wrist.

Roberts said Rojas, who exited a game Sunday with a leg cramp but was OK during camp drills by Monday morning, will take over at shortstop in the near term, starting with the Dodgers' game Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds at Camelback Ranch.

But after hoping to compensate for offseason departures — at shortstop, especially — with mostly internal replacements and lower-cost additions, the potential severity of Lux’s injury is already threatening to put a knot in the Dodgers' 2023 plans.

The Dodgers open the season March 30 at Arizona.

“Obviously, a guy that you’re expected to start at shortstop, to miss any time is not good,” Roberts said. “I don’t want to jump to any conclusions yet until we get the testing results, but it’s really unfortunate. Because Gavin has done a lot to get ready for this spring and this season.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.