As Clayton Kershaw has emerged as an integral member of the Dodgers' starting rotation, the coaching staff and front office face the delicate balance of fighting for a pennant without abusing the left arm of their 20-year-old phenom.
Kershaw will set a career high for innings in the first inning tonight. He has pitched 122 innings this season in the major leagues and minor leagues, matching his minor league total last season. In the spring, the Dodgers talked of targeting him for 25 innings per month, then 170 innings for the season.
He pitched 32 2/3 innings last month. If he starts every fifth game for the rest of the season and pitches six innings every time, he will have pitched 176 innings, before any possible playoff games.
"It's something we're conscious of," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "It's not something we're dwelling on."
For a young pitcher, studies have shown that a significant jump in innings from one season to the next can increase the risk of injury. Honeycutt said the Dodgers are focusing less on strict limits and more on how Kershaw and his arm react to each start.
"The main thing, for me, is monitoring him between his starts, to see how he bounces back," Honeycutt said. "His arm and his well-being come above everything else. We're very conscious of that."
Kershaw has a 3.71 earned-run average, trailing only Chad Billingsley among the starters. In his last 19 innings, Kershaw has given up one run.
"My arm feels great," he said. "It's holding up pretty well, knock on wood. Whatever they think is good for me is fine with me."
Andre Ethier took a wait-and-see attitude to the Arizona Diamondbacks' acquisition of slugger Adam Dunn.
"It adds a big bat, but you have to see how it works out," Ethier said, "especially with the loss of [second baseman Orlando] Hudson. That's a big bat out of their lineup."
As the Dodgers chase Arizona in the National League West, Matt Kemp saw the Dunn trade as a counter to the Dodgers' trade for Manny Ramirez.
"We made our team stronger," Kemp said. "They're trying to make their team stronger. "That's a pretty good bat, but we've got one too. I guess it's war. It's on."
Jones to DL?
The Dodgers plan to activate shortstop Nomar Garciaparra tonight, and Manager Joe Torre said they could clear a roster spot for him by putting outfielder Andruw Jones on the disabled list.
In May, Jones had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. Now, Torre said, the patella tendon in the same knee is sore.
"It has nothing to do with the surgery," Torre said.
Garciaparra has not played since July 27 because of a sprained left knee, his third stint on the disabled list this season.
Major League Baseball President Bob DuPuy denied the Dodgers' protest of their loss Wednesday in St. Louis, when Torre said he was told by umpires pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney had not entered the game, even though he had officially done so by entering the batter's box. Torre had decided to use Jeff Kent instead of Sweeney but ended up burning both players for the at-bat. . . . Hall of Famer Stan Musial, 87, greeted Torre with a fist bump in St. Louis. "When Stan Musial did that to me, I knew it was the modern-day handshake," Torre said.