beckett_2014-03-08

Dodger Rotation Suddenly An Open Question

beckett_2014-03-08

Last year, you may remember, the Dodgers used nine different starting pitchers in their first 23 games. Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-jin Ryu, Zack Greinke, and Josh Beckett were the original foursome, joined by Chad Billingsley the second time through. From there, it was something like a comedy of errors. Carlos Quentin broke Greinke, so Chris Capuano become starter No. 6, but immediately injured his calf. In game 18, Stephen Fife appeared in place of Billingsley, who had blown out his elbow. Two days later, Ted Lilly showed up as starter No. 8. Then Fife’s shoulder started barking, and we found ourselves watching Matt Magill, starter No. 9, making his debut against the Brewers on April 27.

It’s not quite so bad as that this year, but then again, we’re only seven games into the season. Five pitchers have started for the Dodgers, and when Greinke takes the mound tonight, he’ll be the first Dodger starter to start more than once other than Ryu, who has gone three times already. Kershaw started the opener in Australia, but is out for weeks or more with his strained back muscle. Beckett is now on his third different injury — thoracic outlet surgery last year, then a bruised thumb in camp, and now a sprained ankle attempting to field a bunt in his rehab start — since he last pitched in a game that counted, and Paul Maholm looked lousy yesterday.

So, where do we stand with this rotation?

We know two things: 1) that Greinke is starting tonight against Matt Cain, and 2) that the seemingly ludicrous amount of early season days off are a godsend right now. Tomorrow is yet another day off, and then Dan Haren starts against Detroit on Tuesday. After that, well, that’s where it gets dicey. That’s Ryu’s regular turn, but after his heavy early usage (and how badly he looked against the Giants on Friday), the team had hoped to give him an extra two days (Thursday is yet another day off), planning to use Beckett. But now that Beckett’s ankle is a concern, imperiling his planned bullpen session today, he might not be an option. (Not that he looked good before getting hurt in Rancho anyway, allowing two homers, one to Elliot Blair, a 46th-round pick in 2011 with a .240/.342/.360 line in parts of four seasons.)

So the Dodgers could forgo Ryu’s extra rest, or they could push Beckett, or they could dip into the minors, where Magill would be on regular rest for Wednesday. Of course, we all remember how rough Magill looked last season, and facing Miguel Cabrera and friends isn’t exactly the situation any of us want to see him in.

The good news, if there is any, is this: Billingsley makes his first rehab start today, and by all accounts, his journey back has been outstanding so far. His fastball in batting practice has been around 92 MPH, and he’s thrown breaking pitches. That’s not the same as being in real games, but it does mean he could be back in early May.

Where the Dodgers will be by then, and if he’ll beat Kershaw back — as now seems likely — remains an open question. But with no other starters currently on the 40-man roster, and Zach Lee having yet to even make his Triple-A debut (which he will do today), it seems like what we see is what we’ll get for the time being. I doubt any of us expected that to possibly include Magill two weeks earlier than it did last year.


About

Mike wrote daily for over six long years (2007-13) about the Dodgers at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, which was named 2011′s “Best Sports Blog” by LA Weekly. He can currently be found writing multiple times per week at FanGraphs and ESPN, has been a producer and editor for Sports on Earth, and built The Hardball Times. He lives in New York City and will probably be asleep or on vacation when awesome things happen.


356 comments
PagansOedipalComplex
PagansOedipalComplex

So seriously, there's no possible way that George Kottaras could have helped

I'm so glad Drew Butera is in the lineup

3RD WORST OPS OF ALL TIME

efb
efb

LOL i forgot how people come out of the woodwork during the regular seasons to having raging negativity boners 

MotoMikey
MotoMikey

3rd baseball game attended in as many days for me today. I want to WIN!

efb
efb

fast runners who bat right handed should just learn to bunt lefthanded YHIHF

TheReggieHurley
TheReggieHurley

not sure if vnd is still here, but regarding puig a fracture would be better than muscle/ligament damage correct? 

MotoMikey
MotoMikey

@efb  The pessimistic fans are definately upsetting. One in particular I work with is basically signaling the end of Kershaws career and believes Kemp and Puig should both be traded. . . . . Never heard him say a positive thing about the Dodgers, yet is a "fan"

TheReggieHurley
TheReggieHurley

although it is his thumb so seem like it would more likely be muscle

PagansOedipalComplex
PagansOedipalComplex

Even probablier, that no amount of Defense can mask the fact that he's one of the worst hitters ever

PagansOedipalComplex
PagansOedipalComplex

Which leads me to wonder why didn't they try to acquire a better catcher than both FedX AND Butera? Kottaras would have been perfect in this situation

TheReggieHurley
TheReggieHurley

@Disgruntled Goat @TheReggieHurley @Purple Drank  @PagansOedipalComplex  i feel like that is the wrong way to think about it. Yes, if you look at the entire season the effects become significant, but it's not like you combine the effects and that changes the outcome of the games. It's more like for each game you tip the scale in your favor by just a little bit. So if he plays that one game, there is a chance that the framing could be the difference. And also more curious than anything. 

PagansOedipalComplex
PagansOedipalComplex

Right, I'm not lobbying for either of them, just wondering why they didn't improve through free agency when there was an option on the market