Dodgers remain a pitcher short

LOS ANGELES – So the general manager with a few months left on his contract, who could have spent a few players nobody would have missed for years, opted for long-term good, as he saw it.

So now what for the Dodgers?

“I guess we’re going to find out,” Ned Colletti said.

So the pitching coach who presides over a couple young men who pitch to become horses, and a onetime horse who has become a reclamation project, and others who fit but don’t amaze, he asks them all to improve today.

So there’s no Roy Halladay(notes)? So Cliff Lee(notes) is not here, but in Philadelphia?

“My job,” Rick Honeycutt said, “if this is what we have, then this is what we go with. I believe in these guys.”

So the catcher who lives every pitch with them, who knows them as well as anyone, of course would love to have been catching Halladay on Monday.

So he wasn’t.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve won a Cy Young,” Russell Martin(notes) said. “You’ve still got to make a pitch when you need to. We can do that. Right now we have a young pitching staff. They just don’t have a lot on their résumés.”

So the manager who made a living out of handing the ball to big, hairy guys who didn’t ever scare in October, he’ll continue to work it this way, dragging wins and lessons out of a staff that is second in the National League in ERA, 14th in quality starts and first in skeptics.

So it doesn’t look like they’ll ever stand up to Lee and Hamels or Carpenter and Wainwright or, geez, Lincecum and Cain. So they don’t have a certified ace yet. Not even close.

“It could happen,” Joe Torre said. “It’s going to have to. They’re going to have to live up to their capabilities.”

So the guy in the fifth spot lives to pitch another day, against everyone’s better judgment. He wins two games. He beats the Braves, and then Chipper Jones(notes) admits he couldn’t tell the difference between the fastball and changeup.

So …

“I can’t either,” Jason Schmidt(notes) said. “That’s why I stopped throwing them.”

The point is, it’s 2 a.m. and Roy Halladay ain’t walking though the door. Maybe that’ll be the death of the Los Angeles Dodgers, of a season Manny Ramirez(notes) alternately invigorates and sucks the life out of, a season that might be a single power arm short.

Maybe Bronson Arroyo(notes) comes along in a waiver deal. Maybe Jon Garland(notes) or Gil Meche(notes) or Doug Davis(notes).

OK. Would it change Games 1 and 2?

After a lot of mid-summer commotion, the Dodgers are who they are. They are a pitching staff that could be bound for collapse, that won’t have enough reinforcements to cover for a rotation that gets an average of 17 outs a game, two fewer than the best in the league. They added George Sherrill(notes) last week. Who are they going to get this month? Or in September?

They too often need important outs from their middle relievers, from wrinkly Jeff Weaver(notes) to newbie Scott Elbert(notes). They are a staff of 13, so that pitchers hit for other pitchers, and plodders run for themselves, and it’s a near crisis when Chad Billingsley(notes) comes out after five innings because of a hamstring cramp one night and Clayton Kershaw(notes) after four because of extreme wildness the next night, but it’s who they are.

They’re also the staff with the best WHIP in the league, and the lowest batting average against, and a bullpen that isn’t dead yet, though they run through elbows like nobody’s business. What they need, maybe, is to lean back on Manny for a while, win some of those blowout games, laugh it up, except maybe Manny won’t be up to it. He hasn’t driven in a run in a week and a half, and he’s batting barely .200 over the past couple weeks, and he’s driven in runs in three of his last 18 games. They’re different when he’s not hitting.

Off the top of his head, Torre couldn’t recall a team of his that rode a bullpen to a championship. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, but in the meantime there’s a lot of available work in the middle of games and two or three months to do it in.

Maybe the Dodgers passed on a chance to win right to the end of October.

What they’ll do instead is hand the ball to Billingsley and Kershaw, to Hiroki Kuroda(notes) and Randy Wolf(notes). The fact they’ve gotten the Dodgers this far, Colletti said, “is not to be dismissed.” It’s also not to be confused with October, of course, but these are the decisions organizations make, that general managers live with.

So they go with what they have. They make do.

“Did I have any hope?” Martin asked. “Well, I was paying attention. It was on TV every day. But I wasn’t getting my expectations up. Obviously Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay would help us out. But I feel like we’ve got a deep enough rotation, and our bullpen is unbelievable.”

So there you go.

Tim Brown is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. He co-authored with Jim Abbott the memoir “Imperfect: an Improbable Life”.   Follow him on Twitter.   Send Tim a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Aug 4, 2009