COMMENTARY | When the Los Angeles Dodgers began spring training in Arizona, the word was that they had too many starting pitchers, and they were probably going to trade one or more of their surplus of starters by opening day.
With all eight starters pulling down handsome major-league salaries on a team with the highest overall payroll in the history of Major League Baseball, the Dodgers sure looked like a team with a stacked deck ready to deal. Indeed, there were question marks in the infield and a need for some back up at first base.
While eight starters certainly seemed like too many, who's counting? Dodgers GM Ned Colletti was warming up the phones while his roster was warming up in Arizona, but no deals came through in March.
Most people would agree, you can never have too much of a good thing. "Eight is enough," I heard myself saying on opening day, but enough is not too many. All eight were career starters that might not do well or be happy about being demoted to a long-relief or setup role. The starting five were relatively easy to identify: Cy Young winner and staff ace Clayton Kershaw; free-agent star acquisition Zack Greinke; multi-million-dollar baby Hyun-Jin Ryu; quixotic Josh Beckett; and the always-on-the-verge-of-greatness Chad Billingsley.
After that L.A. had to figure out what to do with Chris Capuano (12-12, ERA 3.72) and Aaron Harang (10-10, ERA 3.61), who both performed well enough in their 2012 starting roles to make the top five on almost any major-league roster. And then there was lovable but inconsistent finesse pitcher Ted Lilly (5-1, ERA 3.14). Manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt poured over their options like kids in a candy store, scarcely able to conceal their glee when asked what they were planning to do by beat reporters during their opening series with the pitching-rich rival San Francisco Giants.
A General Manager's Fantasy Fulfilled
As of opening day, Lilly had given the Dodgers one easy option by making a slow but methodical climb back from shoulder surgery, so he went on the DL. With Harang ill-suited to a relief role -- in his opinion and that of the Dodgers' coaches as well -- Capuano took one for the team and resigned himself to being the best starting pitcher in any National League bullpen.
Still thinking they had too many starters, Harang was traded to Colorado in a deal that brought catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Dodgers, who figured they needed more experience backing up A.J. Ellis behind the plate.
Seven starters on the depth chart should be enough, right?
Enter Carlos Quentin and an April bench-clearing brawl, Zack Greinke's broken collarbone, and a bizarre leg injury to Chris Capuano before the cast was dry on Greinke's shoulder, and the boys in blue were down to five starters, one of whom, Ted Lilly, is still struggling to get to back to form.
Too much of a good thing?
I'll say it again: You can never have too much starting pitching. Next comes Chad Billingsley, scratched from his third start on April 21 and now out for the season after Tommy John surgery. By my count that leaves the Dodgers with a $230 million payroll and just three starters in Kershaw, Ryu and Beckett -- and no one is quite sure about Beckett anymore following several terrible outings, including his last on May 1.
Now enter the newest unproven rookie call-up, Matt Magill; after that it's Katie-bar-the-door, with precious little help on the horizon in Triple-A Albuquerque or Double-A Chattanooga since 2012 call-ups Scott Elbert, Stephen Fife and Shawn Tolleson are also on the DL, and Eric Stults went to the San Diego Padres in offseason maneuvers.
Baseball is called a game of inches, but it's also a game of arms and surprises. Expect the totally unexpected, because it's bound to happen. Take a hard lesson, Dodgers, because you really can never have too much starting pitching.Elliot Blinder, a freelance writer, has been following the Dodgers since they played in Brooklyn. He personally witnessed Fernando Valenzuela's opening day shutout, Kirk Gibson's home run in the 1988 World Series, and Orel Hershiser's scoreless innings streak.
Follow him on Twitter @ElliotsWindow.
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