It’s a good thing the Los Angeles Dodgers have arguably the best one-two pitching punch in Major League Baseball with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke atop their staff. They’re going to need it.

In the wake of the lingering-since-spring-training left-shoulder injury to southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu, expected to be the club’s third starter, and the more recent, more severe season-ending elbow tear suffered Saturday night by No. 4 starter Brandon McCarthy, the contending Dodgers are going to have to address their rapidly eroding rotation.

And probably sooner than later, as Bill Plunkett of the Los Angeles Times puts it:

McCarthy, who signed a lucrative contract with L.A. as a free agent this past offseason, left his outing over the weekend in the sixth inning of a game the Dodgers eventually won over the San Diego Padres.

Immediately after throwing a pitch that Justin Upton hit for a home run, the tall righty began to shake his right arm and then called the club’s coaching staff and trainers out to the mound. After a brief discussion, McCarthy came out.

“I expected [McCarthy] to go on the DL [Monday], but we thought more along the lines of tendinitis than something like [a torn ulnar collateral ligament],” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Monday in his interview with reporters. “I felt like that’s what I was going to hear, then we would have to fill [in for McCarthy] for a little bit of time and get back to it. But obviously, the news was not good.”

The expectation is that McCarthy will need to undergo Tommy John surgery, per Earl Bloom of, which could keep him out through the first half of 2016.

Meanwhile, the NL West-leading Dodgers (12-7) are merely very early in the first half of 2015, and already a team that has won the division each of the past two years and has World Series hopes needs to be searching for pitching depth either internally or possibly via trade between now and July 31.

Oh, and the Dodgers also have to keep their fingers crossed that Kershaw and Greinke can sustain the status quo as two of the sport’s very best and most durable.

After those two, the only other pitcher projected to be a part of the rotation at the outset of the season is Brett Anderson, who might well be the most injury-prone starting pitcher in baseball in recent years.

Over the previous three seasons, the 27-year-old left-hander has made just 19 starts and thrown all of 123 innings—combined. Anderson more or less is a disabled-list stint waiting to happen, but now the Dodgers need him to be a somewhat stable third option behind the top two.

That is, at least until Ryu returns. The 28-year-old Korean lefty, who was both good and steady in his first two seasons, is making progress but very slowly as he comes back from a shoulder impingement. Ryu threw 20 pitches off a mound Sunday in his first action since being shut down in mid-March, according to Ken Gurnick of

As for McCarthy, it’s not like he has been the pillar of health, which is why it was surprising to many when the Dodgers inked him not only for $48 million but also for four years this winter.

The 31-year-old has pitched in parts of 10 seasons in the majors, and only last year did McCarthy finally make it past 25 starts and over 175 innings in a single one. He has been on the DL a Ferris Bueller-like nine times.

Still, the Dodgers, in all likelihood, could have been anticipating some sort of ailment or injury for McCarthy—just not one of the season-ending variety. And certainly not after just four starts.

That leaves Mattingly and, especially, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman to scramble to find a way to make up for about, oh, 28 turns and 180 or so innings. And that’s just for McCarthy.

A peek at L.A.’s 40-man roster shows the following names as potential fill-ins, at least in the short term:

  • Scott Baker, a 33-year-old veteran who sports a 4.24 career ERA and who last made even 10 starts in 2011
  • Mike Bolsinger, who already has made one start for the Dodgers in 2015 but otherwise is 27 years old and in his third season at Triple-A
  • Zach Lee, 23, the club’s first-round pick in 2010 who is off to a strong start at Oklahoma City (1.00 ERA, 0.84 WHIP) but who has yet to debut and is considered a mid-rotation arm at best
  • Joe Wieland, a 25-year-old the Dodgers acquired along with Yasmani Grandal from the Padres in the Matt Kemp deal who has 39 career innings in the majors

There’s also Brandon Beachy, the once-promising Atlanta Braves right-hander who is trying to return from a second Tommy John surgery by this summer.

In other words: not a whole heck of a lot. Until Friedman can come up with a more stable solution, expect the above four to be on call, possibly shuttling back and forth between L.A. and OKC.

Longer term, there’s at least a possibility, it would seem, that top prospect/phenom Julio Urias could be called upon at some point.

But even if the precocious left-hander continues tearing up Double-A at age 18 (20.2 IP, 13 H, 5 ER, 26:3 K:BB), that likely wouldn’t happen until after the All-Star break. And even then, maybe only if things don’t get better for Ryu or go south once again for Anderson. Baseball America managing editor JJ Cooper offered this about Urias:

That leaves external options via trade. There will be—scratch that, there already is, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times—chatter and speculation about the usual suspects, like Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds, Jordan Zimmermann of the Washington Nationals or Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies. And any of those three, among others, are possible targets down the line.

But the Friedman-led front office has indicated in the past that there’s no interest in trading one of the franchise’s top two building-block prospects, shortstop Corey Seager or Urias, when both are massive talents on the verge of helping the big league club at minimal cost. Such a big-name pitcher is going to require a big-time return. Says USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale:

Could desperation in the form of a setback with Ryu or another injury to Anderson—or worse, Kershaw or Greinke—change that? Sure, but that remains to be seen.

Perhaps rather than honing in on another star starter, the Dodgers would be better served targeting one or two capable mid-rotation arms. Someone like Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Kyle Lohse, Oakland Athletics lefty Scott Kazmir or Reds righty Mike Leake, to name a few.

None of those three are sexy superstars the Dodgers have come to be associated with, but they’re all proven pitchers who would be major improvements over what L.A. currently is calling the back end of its rotation. What’s more, all three are free agents after the season, which would make them much easier gets, and that’s up Friedman’s alley.

Besides, with a one-two like Kershaw and Greinke, and with Ryu eventually as the No. 3, the Dodgers don’t need another star-caliber starter. They do, however, need innings.


Statistics are accurate through Monday, April 27, and courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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