Loss to Rays shows why Dodgers might need starting pitching
What began as a potential preseason concern for the Dodgers has blossomed into a sudden mystery midseason.
Less than two months into the schedule, the team’s starting pitch may need to be cemented.
This is a result of major league injuries coupled with thinning options on the farm.
And although the trade deadline for Major League Baseball isn’t until early August, speculation is already beginning that the team still has more to come up with.
It is an issue that came under scrutiny in 2014 a 9-3 defeat against the first-seeded Tampa Bay Rays on Friday when Noah Syndergaard gave up six runs in six difficult innings, taking his earned run average to 6.27 — the eighth-highest in the majors among pitchers with at least 40 innings.
“When I think about pitching, I just don’t have a lot of positive emotions,” said a dejected Syndergaard after giving up eight hits, a home run and plenty of other hard contact. “Throwing what I have right now is not enough to successfully compete against a team like this.”
For now, however, the Dodgers are lacking other options, with Syndergaard (1-4) being one of just three members of the team’s expected starting lineup who is currently uninjured.
Julio Urías will be out for at least a week with a thigh strain. The team will learn more about his schedule after he hosts a bullpen session on Saturday. Dustin May won’t be back until the end of July at the earliest. He needs to rest four to six more weeks after recently having a platelet-rich plasma injection for his overworked forearm.
With Syndergaard struggling, Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin are the only experienced pitchers the Dodgers could count on.
And although prospects Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller have shown their potential in their recent MLB debuts (another injured youngster, Michael Grove, is about to return from a groin strain). For the Dodgers interested in the World Series, getting rotational reinforcements at the club is fast becoming more of a necessity.
“Potentially,” Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations, said Friday when asked whether the Dodgers’ rotation shortage will affect their trade deadline priorities.
“I mean, it’s still early right now,” Friedman added. “I think using the first three, three and a half months to assess your roster and needs will help figure out how you’re going to do things in July.”
Friedman remained upbeat about the current group, noting that “up to this point [our starting pitching] it was fine.”
He remains confident that Urías’ injury won’t be a long-term problem. And while May’s status is more uncertain – Friedman said surgery was a possibility for May “initially” but is now considered off the table – he still expects the right-hander to return to full strength later this season .
“Right now where we are, it’s going to be a little more shell-game as we have more injuries,” Friedman admitted. “But we are thinking about it and trying to be as prepared as possible should that happen. Our goal is that that doesn’t happen.”
However, returning to a fully healthy and effective rotation seems to be a long way off.
Even with Urías and May returning, Kershaw and Gonsolin offer no assurances of health, having each been on the injured list for some time in recent years.
Meanwhile, Syndergaard is increasingly playing the role of an unprofitable rotation team.
“We have a few other options going forward,” said manager Dave Roberts when asked how much longer the Dodgers can start right-handed. “But I think for now we have to keep challenging him and expect better results.”
In fact, the Dodgers aren’t panicking just yet, playing with Syndergaard every fifth day while giving their younger pitchers more options.
But continuing to bet on this combination is a long-term gamble.
Rotation questions are piling up. And the Dodgers’ deadline plans are becoming more important. Even though they started the season confident in their starting line-up, they may have no choice but to acquire more of it at some point.