4/15/2013 8:03 P.M. ET
Sarah's Take: Dodgers have rotation questions
By Sarah D. Morris / MLB.com
During last Thursday's game against the San Diego Padres, Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke suffered a fractured collarbone. The injury that will cause Greinke to miss eight weeks occurred when Carlos Quentin tackled him.
Greinke was the Dodgers' biggest offseason free-agent signing. Despite hitting Quentin to start the sixth inning, Greinke wasn't the attacker. The league suspended Quentin for eight games, and Greinke received no suspension. The only Dodger who was suspended was Jerry Hairston Jr., who will miss one game. Although umpires ejected Matt Kemp after the melee, he was not suspended.
Most teams that lose a starter the caliber of Greinke would be hurting for a replacement, but the Dodgers have enough depth to survive until Greinke returns. Last September the Dodgers had to search for healthy starting pitchers, and this contributed to the Dodgers missing the playoffs. Neither general manager Ned Colletti nor new ownership wanted to have a repeat of that.
Since December, many members of the media questioned what the Dodgers would do with eight starters. But Colletti kept them all until earlier this month when he traded Aaron Harang, who objected to being put in the bullpen, to the Colorado Rockies for veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez. Even though the Dodgers have a record-setting payroll, they needed a veteran backup catcher. Now Colletti might regret trading the likable and durable Harang.
The Dodgers have many questions to answer regarding the starting rotation. Clayton Kershaw is clearly the ace of the starting rotation. This year Kershaw has allowed only three runs in 23 1/3 innings. As long as Kershaw is healthy, the Dodgers should have a chance of winning every fifth game if the offense gives him adequate support.
Although Josh Beckett has had a long distinguished career, mostly with the Boston Red Sox, he is trying to reinvent himself as a finesse pitcher. In the past, Beckett struck out a lot of hitters with a blazing fastball, but now he must learn how to trick the hitter. The learning process probably will take him some time.
Since the most recent free-agent class didn't have many good pitchers, the Dodgers looked internationally to find the quality of starters that they desired. They found a 25-year-old Korean left-handed pitcher named Hyun-Jin Ryu. While pitching in the Korean professional league, he dominated every pitching category. After three starts, Ryu has a 2.89 ERA.
Chris Capuano began the year in the bullpen. Since Greinke's injury, Capuano figures to join the starting rotation until the Dodgers determine whether Ted Lilly can pitch.
When Spring Training began, no one knew whether Chad Billingsley could pitch at all or needed Tommy John elbow surgery. Last August Billingsley had a partially torn ligament in his pitching elbow. Most pitchers would have Tommy John surgery and miss a year, but Billingsley elected to have a series of platelet-rich injections. During Spring Training, Billingsley proved that his elbow is fine for now, but no one knows how long the apparent cure will last.
During Spring Training, Billingsley's index finger became infected. He missed a couple of starts and began the season on the disabled list. On Wednesday he started against the Padres but didn't throw many breaking balls that use the index finger. If he remains healthy, he will be an asset for the Dodgers, but if Billingsley can't stay healthy, no one should be surprised.
Lilly underwent shoulder surgery last September. Already a soft-tossing lefty, Lilly can't afford to lose any more velocity and still pitch effectively at the Major League level. Lilly tried to pitch in Spring Training, but he had two bouts of flu. Currently he is on a rehabilitation assignment. Although his shoulder hasn't bothered him as he builds shoulder strength, the results haven't been good. It remains to be seen if Lilly can fulfill the last year of his contract.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.