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Los Angeles Dodgers' young pitchers will be put to the test as injuries mount

The pressure is on for Bobby Miller, Emmet Sheehan and the Dodgers' other young arms

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers have sported MLB’s lowest ERA in each of the past four seasons. They have not finished outside the top 10 in the category since 2010. But in 2023, with just four games until the All-Star break, the Dodgers rank 23rd. And as the injuries continue to pile up, they might only plummet.

While the Dodgers managed to escape with a 6-4 victory Wednesday — thanks in part to a disastrous fifth inning from Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Roansy Contreras — the youthful inconsistencies that are to be expected from an injury-ravaged, inexperienced rotation such as Los Angeles' were on full display from the get-go.

Rookie Bobby Miller made his eighth start of the season, opening the evening by striking out Andrew McCutchen and surrendering a home run to Bryan Reynolds in the next at-bat. Miller ultimately put together a decent night and came away with the win, allowing four runs and striking out seven batters in 5 2/3 innings, but he has been as volatile as any of the Dodgers’ arms this season.

“I’d like to be better,” Miller said after the game, “but I’ve just got to build off that.”

Bobby Miller headshot
Bobby Miller
IL15
SP - LAD - #28
2023 - false season
124.1
IP
3.76
ERA
1.10
WHIP
119
K
32
BB

After allowing just two earned runs across his first four starts of the season — and recording a 20-inning scoreless streak, the Dodgers’ longest of the season — the 24-year-old has given up 20 runs across his four outings since then. The way things stand now, the Dodgers will need more from guys such as Miller and fellow rookie Emmet Sheehan.

“Starting pitching is always helpful,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game when asked about the possibility of adding to the rotation via trade. “Are we looking [around] and kicking the tires? Absolutely.”

The latest to hit the injured list for the Dodgers were Clayton Kershaw and Dustin May. Kershaw, who was in the midst of a vintage, dominant campaign, told reporters Monday that he should return following the All-Star break, yet his significant injury history renders that timeline unconvincing. May, on the other hand, will miss the remainder of the season, which Roberts described before the game as surprising and “a big blow.”

Clayton Kershaw headshot
Clayton Kershaw
IL60
SP - LAD - #22
2023 - false season
131.2
IP
2.46
ERA
1.06
WHIP
137
K
40
BB

Those two join Noah Syndergaard, Los Angeles’ 2023 reclamation project, who has been on the IL since early June but will throw three innings Thursday before heading to his rehab assignment. Unlike Kershaw and May, Syndergaard struggled through the early portion of the 2023 season, posting a 1-4 record with a 7.16 ERA in 12 starts. As a result, his spot in the rotation might be up for grabs as he continues to recover.

Noah Syndergaard headshot
Noah Syndergaard
SP - LAD - #34
2023 - false season
88.2
IP
6.50
ERA
1.39
WHIP
56
K
19
BB

“The ball is in his court to go out there and perform,” Roberts said before the game of Syndergaard’s looming return. “The sample that we’ve seen up to this point … it hasn’t been where we need it to be.”

Aside from the aforementioned trio, the Dodgers have also been without 2022 Opening Day starter Walker Buehler, who Roberts noted the team hopes can return late in the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August.

Despite the depleted nature of this group, Roberts insisted after Wednesday's victory that he is confident in the current rotation. With several questions in the bullpen, they will be under immense pressure to keep the team afloat at least until Kershaw returns.

“If you look at the track record of our guys, whenever there’s been a need to fill a void, we’ve done a great job,” Roberts said before the game. “Getting these [young] guys opportunities to learn and get better is a good thing.”

Perhaps the positivity comes from the fact that, in his mind, it’s only a matter of time before the full contingent is back healthy.

“We have an ace,” Roberts quipped prior to Wednesday's game. “Just not right now.”