Battered pitching staff doesn't sink hopes

August, 19, 2014
8/19/14
11:54
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Zack Greinke politely refused to talk about it, shaking his head and smiling before he walked off.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wouldn't offer much more detail about whatever is ailing Greinke's pitching elbow.

Asked if Greinke would make his scheduled start Thursday, Mattingly said after the Dodgers' 8-6 win over the San Diego Padres, "It's nothing that we would talk about right now. It's a possibility."

[+] EnlargeDodgers
Richard MacksonThe Dodgers provided enough offense to win Tuesday's game, but that might need to be the norm if their pitching staff keeps taking injury hits.
So, there is a "possibility" that the Dodgers' second-best pitcher will be healthy enough to stay on his regular turn in the rotation.

If that possibility doesn't pan out and Greinke misses a start or goes on the disabled list, the Dodgers' pitching rotation will be: Clayton Kershaw, best pitcher in baseball; two guys who cleared waivers before being traded to L.A.; an unnamed pitcher from Triple-A who will take Greinke's spot; and Dan Haren, a banged-up veteran clinging to his spot.

In other words, get used to more of what the last two games have brought. The Dodgers were behind 2-0 after nine Haren pitches Sunday and lost. They were behind 3-0 after 16 Kevin Correia pitches Tuesday and won.

It's going to take some offensive resiliency to weather this storm of pitching injuries.

Greinke's elbow is easily the Dodgers' biggest worry if it indeed proves to be an injury that keeps him out for more than a start or two. But Dodgers trainers have been busy trying to get enough healthy bodies and arms onto the mound lately.

The Dodgers now are all but conceding that Josh Beckett (hip) is lost for the season. Hyun-Jin Ryu (strained gluteus) has begun playing catch, but his return date remains a mystery. Paul Maholm is out for the season after knee surgery. So, if Greinke goes on the DL, that would be four of the Dodgers' top six starters on the Opening Day depth chart out of action.

And the bullpen is far from unscathed, with Chris Perez and Paco Rodriguez on the DL and Maholm having done much of his work in relief.

Correia, who was 5-13 with a 4.94 ERA for the Minnesota Twins before the Dodgers landed him after he cleared waivers, wasn't as good Tuesday as in his Dodgers debut in Atlanta. He served up a three-run home run to Jedd Gyorko in the first inning and got in a spot of trouble again in the fifth, his final inning.

But as Correia correctly pointed out after the game, "Really, I'm here to try to get some wins. A win's a win."

The acquisitions of Correia and Roberto Hernandez looked like nice depth pickups at the time. In the intervening days, with Ryu -- and perhaps Greinke -- going down, they look like potential season savers. Hernandez is scheduled to make his third Dodgers start Wednesday, then who knows who will take the ball Thursday?

It's not as if things are gloomy around the Dodgers, despite the injuries. Hanley Ramirez figures to be activated after sitting out the five remaining days on his DL stint, and Ryu's injury isn't considered a long-term risk. And the Dodgers actually are fairly hopeful Greinke's elbow soreness is more a matter of rest than anything else. But, as one source said, "You think you have a handle on it until you don't."

It's all about managing the season. With a reasonably robust division lead, the Dodgers are taking a step back in mid-August, allowing their players to get healthy with enough rest so they don't stumble in September. Because by then, missteps can prove fatal.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.296 16 69 92
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
WC. Kershaw 21
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239