For all the happy thoughts about the seemingly solid Dodger starting rotation, I never thought that the front five of Clayton Kershaw / Chad Billingsley / Ted Lilly / Hiroki Kuroda / Jon Garland was going to last through the entire season. You knew that Vicente Padilla would get some starts when injuries hit, and it wouldn’t stop there. John Ely was going to get a crack. Blake Hawksworth, perhaps, or Carlos Monasterios, or a retread like Tim Redding. That’s just a fact of life.
But if you really thought you’d be dipping into the extra guys a week before St. Patrick’s Day, raise your hand, because you’ve won a prize, inasmuch as watching Tim Redding pitch can be a prize. That’s because Bill Shaikin, Ken Gurnick, and half of my Twitter feed are reporting that Jon Garland just left his start in the second inning clutching his side. As Shaikin notes, it for all the world looked like an oblique injury, and that’s generally a recovery that’s measured in weeks, not days. (Update: Shaikin is reporting that Garland says it is indeed his oblique.)
Let’s be clear right now that we don’t know yet the details are going to be, other than that he came out. So any speculation on who might replace him is far, far too premature… but that’s certainly not going to stop us from doing it anyway. Padilla was the obvious answer, yet he’s down with his own injury, so that leaves with Ely, last season’s short-lived hero, or Redding, who didn’t pitch in the bigs last year and had a 5.10 ERA in 2009. Each have had excellent starts to the spring, with Redding scattering six hits over eight scoreless innings, and Ely striking out seven against zero walks in six scoreless innings. There’s still plenty of camp left, but it’s hard for me to root against Ely.
There’s also another option, one that I was thinking about but was beaten to the Twitter punch about by Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA. Since the Dodgers have several off-days in the first portion of the season, they could conceivably make it until April 10 or 12 without needing a fifth starter. If that’s the case, they could avoid Xavier Paul‘s out-of-options status by carrying him to start the year, with Garland on the DL. They could then make a move to either activate Garland or recall Ely/Redding for that game.
That probably wouldn’t do much to help Paul’s long-term Dodger fortune, though it at would at least allow him the opportunity to stick around for two more weeks in case another hitter comes up with an injury, and as we’ve seen this spring, that’s not altogether unlikely.
So while we wait for news on Garland, keep these two nuggets in mind. #1, if you didn’t like Garland, this might help have him not pitch enough innings to get that 2012 option to vest, and #2, rather than be disappointed that the extra depth didn’t last, just imagine what things would have looked like if the team hadn’t come to camp with six starters. Ugly, right?