There is an old baseball adage that you can never have too much pitching, and the Dodgers are doing their best to prove that theory early in spring training. Jon Garland had to leave his start against the Mariners early today with a strained left oblique muscle, and it doesn't sound like he'll be back anytime soon. From Tony Jackson of ESPN Los Angeles:
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly seemed to concede after meeting with trainer Stan Conte that Garland stands a good chance of missing the start of the season.
"Just looking at it, I don't want to put words in [Conte's] mouth, but I don't think he really felt it was [short-term]," Mattingly said. "These typically aren't two-week things, for sure. If it's more than that, we'll go from there.''
Injury is a foreign word to Garland, who has made 32 or 33 starts every year for each of the past nine seasons. Garland was signed by the Dodgers to a one-year deal worth $5 million, plus incentives and a vesting option that could pay him as much as $16.025 million total over two years. He was signed to be their fifth starter.
Vicente Padilla, who started 16 games for the Dodgers last year, was signed to be the sixth starter. Padilla was also signed to an incentive-laden contract, with a $2 million base salary plus up to $6.8 million in bonuses in a relief role or up to $8 million in bonuses as a starter. Padilla had surgery last month to free up a nerve that had been entrapped by a muscle in his right forearm, and he hopes to return by May 1, though his primary role will be in relief.
That the Dodgers signed the pair to low-base, higher-incentive deals shows that the club knew there was some risk involved in signing pitchers in their 30s. They also signed 35-year old Ted Lilly and 36-year old Hiroki Kuroda this winter, and entered camp with six established starters, a far cry from last spring when the four musketeers (Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Kuroda, and Padilla) were buffeted by a batch of unproven arms.
Still, here they are a mere 11 days after their first Cactus League game, and it looks like the Dodgers might be down to four established starters by opening day. That is, unless somebody else gets hurt. As it stands now, the leading candidates to take the temporary reigns of the fifth starter spot are John Ely, who made 18 starts with the Dodgers in 2010 (the first seven were very good; the last 11, not so much), and Tim Redding, who put up a 2.89 ERA in 17 Triple A starts last season but hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009.
No matter what best laid plans are made, it seems inevitable that teams will have to rely on several starters throughout the course of a season. Even if they sign four free agent starters in one offseason.
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