Suddenly, a prominent Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander is dealing with a shoulder injury that won’t be going away for a while.

But don’t worry. It’s not that prominent Dodgers lefty. For that matter, this is a situation hardly worth worrying about at all.

The lefty in question is Hyun-Jin Ryu. As reported by Ken Gurnick of, the stiffness that the 27-year-old first felt in his left shoulder last Wednesday seemed to be cleared up by an anti-inflammatory injection, but resurfaced when he resumed throwing on Sunday.

With only two weeks now to go until Opening Day, that makes Ryu a no-go for the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster. And on the surface, it’s definitely a bad look.

This means the Dodgers are going to be without a pitcher who owns a 3.17 ERA and a 3.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in two seasons. He’s no Clayton Kershaw, but Ryu has quietly been one of the National League‘s better left-handers.

Also, there’s the state of the Dodgers staff beyond Ryu.

Neither Brandon McCarthy nor Brett Anderson has been particularly impressive this spring, and both have had their own issues with injuries in the past. After them, the Dodgers’ top in-house options are guys like Joe Wieland, Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias and Zach Lee. Meanwhile, closer/cutter magician Kenley Jansen isn’t due back from foot surgery for another month or so.

So, it’s no wonder there’s been some chatter about the Dodgers possibly making a move for a starting pitcher. More specifically, Philadelphia Phillies ace left-hander Cole Hamels. Hey, it’s a possibility that even Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times couldn’t avoid addressing.

But this is as far as we’re going to go with the reactionary doom talk. Because as far as injury scares go, Ryu’s isn’t bad.

As a general rule, shoulder injuries are about as scary as your first viewing of The Exorcist. Their healing can become unpredictable, and it’s often that pitchers aren’t truly fixed even when they do heal.

But Ryu should be OK. Per Gurnick’s report, the stiffness he’s experiencing is the same stiffness that he dealt with on two occasions in 2014, and both times he only needed to be sidelined for three weeks.

If what Ryu is experiencing now is deja vu all over again, there’s a chance that a season-opening stint on the disabled list will be very short-lived. And even if he were to be sidelined for, say, the first month of the season, the Dodgers would still be in good shape.

Though the Dodgers don’t have the most impressive list of spot starter candidates, that’s OK. As Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles pointed out, the frequency of early off days means the Dodgers will only need a spot starter for three games between April 6 and May 5.

Even better, the Dodgers’ schedule in that span could be worse.

For starters, there’s the quality of the opposition. The Dodgers will play the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants twice apiece, with a series against the Seattle Mariners on the side. But they’ll also play nine games against the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies, and another three against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Here’s how it breaks down, with projected records courtesy of Baseball Prospectus

Yes, the majority of the Dodgers’ early games will be against good teams. But the Dodgers, who are projected as a 98-win team, will hardly be out of their depth against them. Against the other three teams on their early-season schedule, they most certainly won’t be out of their depth.

And with Kershaw, Zack Greinke, McCarthy and Anderson set to take on the bulk of the pitching duty, what might help even further is that they’re ground-ball pitchers who will be going up mainly against teams that struggled against such pitchers in 2014. Per Baseball-Reference, only the Rockies and Giants did better than a .700 OPS against ground-ballers.

Lastly, there’s how most of the Dodgers’ early action will take place at home. Of the 27 games they’ll play in that April 6-May 5 span, 15 will be at Dodger Stadium. That’s a good place to be during a pitching crisis, as pegged it as a better park for pitchers in 2014 than all but three others.

In all, the Dodgers aren’t headed for a challenge that they can’t handle without Ryu. If he’s only gone for the first month of the season, they should be able to handle themselves.

Hence the Orange County Register‘s Bill Plunkett’s thoughts on any and all Hamels speculation:

Indeed. That would be an especially overkill-y reaction to Ryu’s bum shoulder. If they’re going to make a deal, it will likely be for an excess starter rather than an ace.

And even in that neighborhood, Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi hinted that pickings are slim.

“This is just a hard time to go out there and acquire starting pitching depth,” Zaidi told Saxon. “We’re fielding calls from teams that are asking us about our starting pitching depth, so there aren’t a lot of starting pitching sellers right now.”

All the more reason for the Dodgers to tough out Ryu’s absence with what they already have and see what happens.

And if the situation changes, so be it. If it turns out that Ryu’s injury is a lot worse than expected and a trade for a legit starter actually becomes necessary, the Dodgers will be able to open plenty of doors.

Their farm system is arguably one of the five best in baseball, and their pockets are deeper than the Krubera cave. They could easily trade for Hamels if they wanted to. And if they can trade for him, they can trade for anybody.

For now, the Ryu situation is worth monitoring. That’s the least you can say about a quality pitcher who’s dealing with a shoulder injury.

But nobody should be freaking out. The Dodgers can cover for themselves if he has to miss the early portion of the season, and they’ll be able to find someone else to cover for them if he’s out longer than that.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted/linked.

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