Chad Billingsley is scheduled to make his season debut for the Dodgers on Wednesday in San Diego, since he had no problems in his rehab start for Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday, and that’s very good news. For many teams, a trio of Billingsley, Josh Beckett, and Hyun-jin Ryu would be their best three starters; for the Dodgers, it’s merely the guys we watch while we wait for Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke to get their turns again.
But of course, the real question is how exactly the Dodgers expect to make room for him on the active roster, and that’s an obvious problem with no obvious solution. There’s an argument to be made that Jerry Hairston, Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, Justin Sellers, and Juan Uribe are all basically the same player, and that’s fair, but it’s probably not relevant here. It’s difficult to see the club shrinking their bench and going to 13 pitchers, especially when Don Mattingly seems hesitant to push Carl Crawford too hard.
That means that, barring an unexpected injury, one of the eight current relievers have to go, and I think we all know it’s not going to be Brandon League, Kenley Jansen, J.P. Howell, or Ronald Belisario. It’s probably not going to be Matt Guerrier either, but hey, a man can dream. No, in order to get Billingsley on the roster, either Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, or Paco Rodriguez is going to be shown the door.
I include Rodriguez there because he has options remaining, but I don’t think it will be him — nor should it be. The team obviously liked him enough to take him over Kevin Gregg in the first place, and he’s done nothing in two perfect appearances to indicate that the wrong choice was made.
So as we’ve expected all along, this is going to come down to Capuano or Harang, neither of whom has gotten into a game so far. (I’m ignoring, for the moment, Ted Lilly, who gave up three homers for Rancho Cucamonga last night and isn’t eligible to come off the disabled list yet anyway, though we’ll be having this conversation again in a week or so.) As Steve Dilbeck writes, neither Capuano nor Harang are particularly thrilled with their situation, and the longer they sit unused in the bullpen, the harder it will be for another team to see them as a rotation option.
Of course, even if the Dodgers are willing to trade, there’s not many options that don’t end with the club getting pennies on the dollar. No team has suffered serious rotation injuries thus far other than the Mets, who are missing both Shaun Marcum and Johan Santana, and as a team that isn’t contending anyway who will soon make room for Zack Wheeler, they may not be interested regardless. When you look at other clubs with rotation problems, you find the Astros & Marlins — who aren’t fits for mediocre veterans — and the Twins, who have one of their better pitchers in Scott Diamond returning later this month.
So how does this all end? I can’t say I know. All we can say with a large amount of certainty is that either Capuano or (more likely) Harang is likely in their final days as a Dodger, and this situation can’t get resolved soon enough.