UPDATE: Dodgers’ lack of pitching depth made more apparent with loss of Ryu

UPDATE: March 23, 2015 8:40 am PT

As I mention in the original text the Los Angeles Dodgers’ number three starter, Hyun-jin Ryu, was going to be missing his next spring start.

Well, it turns out that he’ll now be missing more than that, in fact, he’ll be starting the season on the disabled list, according to manager Don Mattingly.

Hyun-jin Ryu. Getty Images.
Hyun-jin Ryu. Getty Images.

Ryu’s throwing program has been completely shutdown and the 27-year-old left-hander is being taken back to Los Angeles to meet with team doctor Neal ElAttrache for an examination on Monday. The results of the examination will determine whether or not Ryu is to undergo further diagnostic tests such as an MRI.

Now this is a big blow to the Dodgers for reasons I also originally mentioned regarding their fourth and fifth starters Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. Both need to remain healthy and pitch to their potential, in McCarthy’s case better, if the Dodgers want to be successful in 2015.

This really highlights the Dodgers’ lack of starting pitching depth, something general manager Farhan Zaidi says that the team has been seeking all winter,

“We’ve been looking for starting pitching depth all offseason and that’s kind of continued into camp. This is just a hard time to go out there and acquire starting pitching depth. We’re fielding calls from teams that are asking us about our starting pitching depth, so there aren’t a lot of starting pitching sellers right now.”

What perplexes me most is why the team didn’t agressively pursue any of the big name free agent starters that were on the market this offseason. The Dodgers are not lacking in funding the way some small market teams are and had the opportunity to go after guys like Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester.

While the Dodgers were always mentioned in the conversation surrounding these players, they didn’t go after them with the force that they could have, something I think they will now be regretting.

If they can’t make a trade for a starter, their only internal options to replace Ryu lie in Joe Wieland, who was acquired from the San Diego Padres as part of the trade for Matt Kemp, as well as a few players currently in their minor league camp, Carlos FriasZach Lee and Mike Bolsinger.

Chad Gaudin. Getty Images.
Chad Gaudin. Getty Images.

There were non-roster invitees Chad Gaudin and David Huff to consider, Gaudin being the favorite to replace Ryu. While Huff may still be available, Gaudin is not, having felt a “tweak” in his right bicep during an outing Saturday.

The Dodgers also just signed Cuban right hander Pablo Fernandez but he was a reliever in Cuba and will likely be starting his professional career in the U.S. in the minor leagues.

There’s always the chance that Ryu’s injury will be minor. If this is the case and he only misses a month, the Dodgers would only have to cover two of his missed starts. If the injury keeps him out longer the team may be in real trouble.

Even with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke leading the way, the Dodgers three, four and five starters will probably not be good enough to keep the team in true contention. They are just not as formidable as they may appear on the surface.

Original Text: March 21, 2015 7:45 am PT

Is the Dodgers’ pitching as formidable as it seems?

The Los Angeles Dodgers could have had the most formidable starting pitching rotation in baseball. That honor now belongs easily to the Washington Nationals. However, the Dodgers do technically have the best pitcher in the game in left-hander Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw has won three of the last four National League Cy Young Awards. In 2014 he became the first N.L. pitcher to win both the Cy Young Award and the N.L. MVP Award since Bob Gibson did with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1968 (The Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander was the last to win both awards in the American League in 2011).

Zack  Greinke. Michael Hickey/Getty Images.
Zack Greinke. Michael Hickey/Getty Images.

The Dodgers had the money to sign a big name free agent starter to join Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu in their starting rotation but it never appeared that they really put forth the effort teams like the Chicago Cubs did to get lefty Jon Lester or that the Nationals did to land right-hander Max Scherzer. It seems that the lack of effort may hurt them in the long run.

Instead they signed Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson and Brandon Beachy. Um, yeah, pretty lackluster and extremely risky, each one of them.

Beachy is currently still recovering from having Tommy John surgery in 2014 and won’t be available for a while.

McCarthy had two good seasons with the Oakland A’s, posting a career best 3.29 ERA. Yet, prior to that, with the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers he put up a 4.56 ERA over five seasons.

He later struggled mightily with the Arizona Diamondbacks (8-21 with a 4.75 ERA over two seasons), before being traded to the New York Yankees in mid-2014 where he finished the season strong going 7-5 in 14 starts with a 2.89 ERA. McCarthy’s careeer ERA is 4.09, it’s a basically a fifth starter type number.

Brandon  McCarthy. Getty Images.
Brandon McCarthy. Getty Images.

With Anderson there is the looming question surrounding his health. The 27-year-old has pitched just one full season in the majors, his rookie season. He was good, finishing sixth in the A.L. Rookie of the Year voting and breaking the A’s rookie strikeout record. However, since then his career has been what can best be described as a disaster.

His 2010 season was plagued by elbow injuries and a tweaked knee. He made just 19 starts. He made 13 starts in 2011 before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

He returned in 2012 to make six quality starts, not including a brilliant appearance in game three of the ALDS, and was named the 2013 Opening Day starter for Oakland.

He was out most of 2013 with a sprained ankle and a then a stress fracture in his right foot, making just 16 appearances, only five of which were starts. The A’s traded Anderson to the Colorado Rockies that offseason.

He got off to a good start for Colorado but landed on the disabled list twice, the second time he needed season-ending back surgery. He made just eight total appearances as a member of the club.

Brett  Anderson. Getty Images.
Brett Anderson. Getty Images.

Now, Anderson is with the Dodgers. He’s healthy but has struggled a little bit this spring allowing 10 hits and three earned runs in just 6.2 innings pitched. He has potential AND he has accrued five strikeouts over those 6.2 innings, but with his history he just isn’t someone the Dodgers can count on.

Now, Ryu is starting to have a shoulder issue that will make him miss at least one start this spring, meaning that the Dodgers will likely have to turn to non-roster invitees Chad Gaudin or David Huff or minor leaguers Zach Lee and Mike Bolsinger to make a spot start, maybe more than one.

Ryu was on the disabled list twice last season one for this same shoulder inflammation and a second time for a strained gluteal muscle. He’s also missed some time this spring with back spasms. So it appears the Dodgers number three starter may also have health issues.

They’re going to need their starters to go far into games, at least as the 2015 season begins. Two of their better bullpen pitchers are also out with injuries. Closer Kenley Jansen just recently had foot surgery and Brandon League has been delayed this spring by shoulder soreness.

As ESPN’s Mark Saxson writes,

“The Dodgers’ playoff hopes are built largely around their starting pitching, led by reigning National League MVP Clayton Kershaw, Ryu and Zack Greinke. The team is counting on the continued good health of newly acquired starters Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, who have dealt with copious injuries in their careers. Injury setbacks have already hit relievers Kenley Jansen … and Brandon League

I guess the question I’ve been posing for the last 700 words is this: Can the Dodgers really count on their pitching, namely their starting pitching? The starting pitching that their playoff hopes are built on?

Greinke can opt-out of his contract after this season, which is neither here nor there, but it will be in his head. That much is guaranteed. You can’t count on McCarthy to pitch much better than a fourth or fifth starter, Anderson simply cannot stay healthy, Ryu is now injured and even the great Clayton Kershaw had issues once he hit the seventh inning during the 2014 postseason. Those issues eventually led to the Dodger’s playoff elimination.

The team may appear to have formidable pitching simply because of Kershaw and Greinke, but do they really?

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