Clayton Kershaw, who was also bothered last season by plantar fasciitis,… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
It’s a party! Everybody into the water, or at least the rotation.
Remember those thrilling days of yesteryear, when the Dodgers started their 2010 season with only four starting pitchers? And spent most of the season trying to unearth a fifth?
Talk about lessons learned. At this moment the Dodgers are preparing to enter the 2013 season with eight starting pitchers. Double the fun.
Of course, only five can be in the rotation, which raises the question of what to do with the three bonus starters?
The most obvious solution is to trade one or two, and put the leftover(s) in the bullpen. Which could prove exactly how this works out.
But the possibility remains that none could be traded, because among those eight there are plenty of uncertainties. Health is always a rotation concern, it being extremely rare that a team goes through an entire season with five healthy starters.
And some form of uncertainty, health or otherwise, is included in almost each of the Dodgers’ eight:
Clayton Kershaw (hip), Chad Billingsley (elbow), Ted Lilly (shoulder surgery), Josh Beckett (approaching 1,900 innings), Hyun-Jin Ryu (complete unknown), Aaron Harang (35 in May) and Chris Capuano (35 in August).
That leaves the $147-million man, Zack Greinke, as the pillar of certainty. And in his first five starts as the Angels’ new starter last season, he posted a 6.19 ERA.
Maybe eight’s not enough.
“You never know what happens,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “We want to work everybody as starters, and if everybody is healthy then we have to make tough decisions.”
So the Dodgers will rev up camp with eight starters and then watch very carefully. What are the chances all eight come out healthy and looking sharp?
Kershaw, who was also bothered last season by plantar fasciitis, said his hip is fully recovered from the injury that forced him to move back a pair of stretch starts last season.
Billingsley is a gamble, the right-hander attempting to avoid Tommy John surgery by strengthening the elbow, a plan that history shows seldom works out, Mike Petriello wrote.
Lilly is 37 and coming off shoulder surgery, and, despite his strong start last season, at this point in his career he becomes difficult to count upon. And really, who knows with any certainty what to expect from South Korea’s Ryu?
If everybody does look sharp this spring and individually answers all questions, then the presumed rotation is Kershaw, Greinke, Billingsley, Beckett and Ryu. Which leaves the Old Squad -- Lilly, Capuano and Harang -- to deal with.
Even with a trade, one or two would have to go to an already crowded bullpen.
“At this point, I really don’t want to go into who that would be, or if we think there are a couple of guys who can do that,” Mattingly said. “We’re going to work everybody as starters in spring training.
“We’ve got some things up in the air. Teddy is coming off of shoulder surgery. Bills obviously with his elbow -- he ended up throwing the ball good and on a normal program, but I think everybody is a little iffy with that situation, so we’ll see how that goes. So it’s up in the air a little bit. And Josh has a lot of miles on him, and on his arm. We’ll see how the health goes in spring training.”
Harang still throws fairly hard and would seem a logical candidate to make the switch to reliever. Lilly and Capuano are both left-handed, and the bullpen could use another lefty after Scott Elbert’s second elbow surgery. With Lilly coming off shoulder surgery and still owed $13.2 million this season, Capuano ($6 million) seems a more likely trade candidate.
But Capuano also might be the first rotation candidate should Billingsley or Ryu struggle. Somebody could easily start the season on the disabled list.
Is this fun or what? Could be a surplus, could actually be trouble. Compared with 2010, though, this is called a good problem.
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