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After all the trades, is rotation oddly Dodgers' biggest concern?

August 02, 2012|By Steve Dilbeck
  • The Dodgers rotation consists of Clayton Kershaw and friends: one ace and four good pitchers.
The Dodgers rotation consists of Clayton Kershaw and friends: one ace and… (Monica M. Davey / EPA )

Let’s just get all crazy here and say the offense is going to be OK. That Shane Victorino will thrive in left and in the leadoff spot, that Hanley Ramirez will give the Dodgers the best 3-4-5 hitters in the division and best group smile.

They are certainly two upgrades, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of upgrading to claim having the best offense in the National League West.

And the bullpen, with the addition of Randy Choate and Brandon League, became more experienced and deeper.

Which takes you to the one area the Dodgers did not improve upon at Tuesday’s nonwaiver trade deadline – starting pitching.

Do they really have enough?

The Dodgers’ rotation trails only the Nationals in all of the majors in earned-run average (3.45) and opponent slugging percentage (.380). As a group, it has been very good.

But they are Clayton Kershaw and friends. One ace, and four good pitchers.

Ted Lilly was pitching extremely well (5-1, 3.14 ERA) when his shoulder came up lame. Chris Capuano has thrown very well (10-7, 3.33) but never been a second-half pitcher (21-35, 4.98). Aaron Harang has been solid (7-6, 3.76), though he’s fourth in the NL in walks allowed (55). Chad Billingsley has been all over the place (6-9, 3.89), though coming off consecutive strong starts.

Can that rotation get it done?

“I still think it’s a concern,” Manager Don Mattingly told The Times’ T.J. Simers.

Lilly remains out, though he has pitched in his first rehab game. He’ll pitch in at least two more, and everyone – particularly Lilly – is being very careful not to predict his return. With Nathan Eovaldi traded to Miami for Ramirez, Stephen Fife has started in his place; he is 0-1 with a 2.16 ERA. Mattingly would not commit to Fife, a control pitcher, taking the next turn after he lost Wednesday.

“That’s hard to say,” Mattingly said. “I don’t know where we’re going to be.”

Options are thin. They could call up old friend John Ely, who’s actually been having a stellar season at triple-A Albuquerque (10-7, 3.32) or try one of those prospects from double A they would not give up for a two-month rental of Ryan Dempster; Allen Webster is 5-8 with a 3.72 ERA at Chattanooga.

All that movement before the trade deadline was in every direction but the rotation. And it's now oddly an area of, if not unease, at least full of questions.

“We added offense to this mix, but [the Dodgers’ philosophy] is still built on pitching and catching the ball,” Mattingly told Simers. “That’s still something we’ll find out. If that doesn’t hold up, then all the offense in the world is not enough.”

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