Dodgers pitcher Jon Garland grimaces while speaking to catcher Josh Bard… (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press )
Reporting from Glendale, Ariz. — — The Dodgers built this season's team upon a foundation of starting pitching, but the foundation appears in danger of crumbling before the team breaks camp.
Jon Garland is expected to start the season on the disabled list after leaving Wednesday's game because of a strained oblique muscle on his left side. The Dodgers sent him for an MRI examination late Wednesday and plan to announce the results Thursday, but such injuries generally require a month or more of recovery.
The Dodgers already have lost Vicente Padilla for at least the first month of the season after surgery to repair a nerve below his right elbow, leaving them with four healthy starters for now. Manager Don Mattingly said the Dodgers would not need a fifth starter until April 12, two weeks into the season.
General Manager Ned Colletti declined to discuss the situation until the Dodgers could get Garland's test results, but the top candidates for a rotation vacancy would figure to be John Ely and Tim Redding, who have combined for 15 scoreless innings this spring.
Ely posted a 1.80 earned-run average in his first six starts last season and an 11.01 ERA in his last six starts. Redding has pitched for five major league teams but was released from two triple-A clubs last season.
Garland, 31, has pitched at least 190 innings in each of the last nine years. He has not been put on the disabled list since 2000, when he sat out two weeks because of a bruised right elbow.
He said he never has had an oblique injury. He clutched his left side after delivering a pitch in the second inning of Wednesday's game.
"It honestly felt like it was cramping up," Garland said. "Standing here doing nothing, it feels fine. If I were to pick up a baseball and throw it, I guess it wouldn't feel good."
See the world
The Dodgers hired Manny Estrada for the newly created position of coordinator of international scouting and have agreed to terms with 16 players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela since Jan. 1, according to Logan White, the Dodgers' assistant general manager and scouting chief.
"We're trying to put more emphasis there," White said.
Baseball America reported that the Dodgers spent $314,000 on international amateur signing bonuses last year, the lowest figure among the 30 major league clubs. The Seattle Mariners spent the most, at $6.5 million.
White said the Dodgers already have spent more this year than last. The top-dollar international amateurs generally sign at age 16, and White said the Dodgers are monitoring this year's class.
However, he maintains that signing such players at 17 or 18 — after another year or two of physical and mental development — is more cost-effective than throwing $3 million or $4 million at a 16-year-old, no matter how hard he throws a ball or how far he hits one. The Dodgers signed their top pitching prospect as an 18-year-old — Dominican right-hander Rubby de la Rosa, for $15,000.
Outfielder Andre Ethier was a late scratch from the starting lineup, when the coaching staff realized he was in the weight room while the starters were stretching on the field. Ethier apparently did not read the lineup card and did not believe he would play for a third consecutive day so soon in spring training, according to Mattingly.
"Obviously a misunderstanding," Mattingly said. "I don't think it's a big deal."