If you had to pick a team at the beginning of this season that would have trouble fielding a five-man starting rotation, you probably wouldn’t think of the Dodgers. A staff led by Clayton Kershaw and complemented with effective arms like Zack Greinke and Chad Billingsley surely would be at the end of your list of problems in mid-April.
As seems to be the case with most every MLB team, though, the Dodgers are struggling with myriad injury problems, including some to its rotation that was expected to be one of the deepest parts of the club.
Coming into the season, the Dodgers probably felt somewhat loaded in the pitching department—so much so they dealt proven starter Aaron Harang to the Colorado Rockies because he was thought to be expendable. But the 162-game campaign resembles more closely a marathon than a sprint, and Los Angeles is finding that out the hard way right now.
Of course, no one could have expected Carlos Quentin’s uncalled-for takedown of Greinke in last week’s Dodgers-San Diego Padres brawl. What reasonable person would come to the conclusion Greinke threw at Quentin on purpose in a one-run game at a 3-2 count? His absence is a tough blow to the Dodgers and one they certainly didn’t deserve. Now Greinke will miss months while Quentin will toil off the field for a measly eight-game suspension.
To make matters worse, Greinke’s replacement in the rotation, Chris Capuano, left his start Monday with a calf strain. As it happens, Capuano had aggravated a calf injury coming to Greinke’s aid in that same brawl.
Now the Dodgers will have to collect themselves and find a long-term solution. If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that they won’t need a fifth starter until April 24, when they play the New York Mets in a nationally televised game on ESPN.
It will be a good opportunity for the Dodgers to showcase themselves and demonstrate how capable they are of being the juggernaut everyone expected. Reeling at 7-8 in fourth place in the NL West was not what fans had in mind for the first few weeks of the season.
While these pitching depth issues are out of the team’s control, perhaps it is better that the rotation comes under scrutiny now. They weren’t going to get by having Kershaw carry the load—even he has looked like a mere mortal in his last two starts (0-2, 12.2 IP, 6 ER in two Dodgers losses) —and identifying a problem and fixing it in April is much better than doing so in late September.
A series sweep at the hands of the perennially mediocre San Diego Padres should serve as an effective wake-up call for this team to steady the ship as soon as possible.