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Dodgers' pitching situation isn't ideal

With some starters battling injuries and illness, Manager Don Mattingly says 'we're fluid.' The scenarios for the start of the regular season are cloudy.

March 19, 2013|By Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times
  • The Dodgers scratched flu-ridden Josh Beckett from his Monday start.
The Dodgers scratched flu-ridden Josh Beckett from his Monday start. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated…)

PHOENIX — — If not for their surplus of starting pitchers, these might be anxious days for the Dodgers.

In the last 24 hours, the Dodgers scratched flu-ridden Josh Beckett from his Monday start, classified Chad Billingsley as "kind of doubtful" for his Tuesday assignment because of a bruised finger and made plans for previously sore-elbowed Zack Greinke to pitch Wednesday.

"The scenarios have been changed a lot lately," Manager Don Mattingly said.

The Dodgers came to spring training knowing the state of their rotation was an issue. By adding Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the off-season, baseball's biggest spenders had eight highly paid starters, including Clayton Kershaw, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly.

This luxury resulted in some logistical problems. Finding the innings to build up everyone's arm strength has been a challenge. And the Dodgers still must determine who will be part of the five-man rotation, moved into relief roles or possibly traded.

The recent run of minor ailments and illnesses has further muddled the situation. Or, as Mattingly said, "We're fluid."

At least there is stability at the top of the rotation. Kershaw appears to be near regular-season form and remains in line to make his third consecutive opening-day start.

Greinke's recent elbow issues all but eliminated him as a candidate to start the Dodgers' second regular-season game, on April 2 against the San Francisco Giants.

Greinke will pitch Wednesday, probably in a minor league game. He is also scheduled to pitch March 25 and March 30. That means the earliest he could pitch in the regular season would be in the fourth game, on April 5.

But it's unknown whether Greinke can build up sufficient arm strength by then. His last start was March 1 and he has pitched five innings this spring. He doesn't appear to be in any rush, pointing out, "Our team, we've got other starting pitchers."

Billingsley was supposed to start a Cactus League game Tuesday but will probably be pushed back after his index finger was bruised in a bunting drill. Mattingly said Billingsley is tentatively scheduled to pitch next on Saturday, which would line him up to start April 2.

Ryu, the $62-million rookie left-hander from South Korea, will be on the same pitching schedule as Billingsley. That will give the Dodgers cover in case Billingsley isn't ready for the start of the regular season. If Billingsley can make his first scheduled start of the regular season, Ryu is likely to end up as the fifth starter.

Battling flu, Beckett was scratched from his scheduled Cactus League start Monday but pitched in a simulated game. If he remains on schedule, he will begin the season as the Dodgers' No. 3 starter.

If Kershaw, Greinke, Billingsley, Beckett or Ryu can't pitch at the start of the season, Lilly is unlikely to be called on to be a replacement. Lilly was behind the other pitchers when he reported to camp because he was recovering from an off-season shoulder operation. His pitching schedule has been disrupted by flu and a hailstorm.

"At this point, it's real hard to get Ted built up to 90 pitches," Mattingly said.

Although Capuano and Harang could step into the rotation if necessary, their recent form has probably diminished their trade value. Capuano, who will start against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday in Billingsley's place, has a spring earned-run average of 10.61. Harang is better, but not by much. His ERA is 10.00.

Short hops

Outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. accepted a reassignment to minor league camp. … Reliever Kenley Jansen became a father Saturday night, when his fiancee gave birth to a girl, Natalia Hana Jansen.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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