If you've caught a Los Angeles Dodgers game this season, you've undoubtedly noticed the struggles the team is going through trying to pitch their way to victory.
The Dodgers are near the top of the Major Leagues in runs scored, and yet they are still playing sub-.500 ball.
The "Boys in Blue" sorely miss their mainstays in the bullpen. Hong-Chih Kuo is still out with shoulder problems but is due back in the next week. Cory Wade's ability to eat up innings in relief of exhausted starters has never been more missed than now, as only Hiroki Kuroda has lasted more than seven innings starting a game—Kuroda has done it twice.
Ronald Belisario has struggled in vein thus far to escape complications with his Visa and there is still no timetable for his return.
With the high ERA and low inning stats coming out of the bullpen, pressure will surely be mounting on the Dodgers' front office and manager Joe Torre to make decisions regarding the appearance of left field beyond the fence.
Relievers on the major league roster could turn into starters—warming up the seats in the 'pen for new faces as coming in to take their slots.
Therefore, here are five pitchers that deserve a second look.
Eric Stults was competing for the fifth starter job in the rotation during the Spring. When the Dodgers decided to go with Charlie Haeger, they released the lefty and he subsequently signed a contract to play in Japan.
Stults was out of options and would have put the Dodgers in a tough spot should he struggle. However, with reliever George Sherill failing to find a groove, those little doubts in the corner are becoming monsters under the bed.
Stults wishes to be a starter, but had he been asked to come out of the bullpen, he may have accepted the assignment. Instead, he will be overseas and more than likely unattainable this season.
Stults appeared in ten games for the Dodgers last season, working 50 innings and splitting time starting and jogging in from left field. His experience and stability is sorely missed this season, as it appears each game brings performances from several different pitchers. The proverbial "what-ifs" have already begun a week and a half in to the season.
As the market shrinks, so do options for players like Eric Stults. The lefty is an unfortunate mark left behind by a struggling economy and a decreasing availability for positions on major league rosters.
Josh Towers was quickly re-assigned to minor league camp following unimpressive performances in Glendale. However, his numbers would suggest a steady work ethic, experience, and reliability in seasons passed.
Although Towers spent the 2009 season in the minor leagues, he did record over 100 innings will carrying an ERA of 3.05 with opponents hitting just .247 against him.
The numbers may be inflated towards the positive because he was in the minors, but compensating for major league hitters, the numbers are still respectable.
Currently, the Dodgers have two pitchers on their roster that combine for only 62.1 innings of major league service—Charlie Haeger and Carlos Monasterios—that thus far this season have shown their inexperience.
Towers, for his career, has appeared in 139 games and 731.1 innings. His career Earned Run Average is a little high at 4.95, but at this point anything is better than the 15.00 currently held by George Sherrill, or the 11.42 of Vicente Padilla.
Towers is also versatile. He has the ability to start games and pitch in to later innings, or come out of the 'pen and set up for Broxton.
The season is still young, but if the trend continues, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Towers getting his chance to solidify his spot.
At the age of 35, Jarrod Washburn is a seasoned veteran that has slipped through the cracks of the media and major league rosters. Although the left-hander has lacked stability in his career, he has shown flashes of greatness.
In 2002, Washburn finished the season with a record of 18-6 and and ERA just over three for the Anaheim Angels.
Although the Washburn may be in the twilight of his career, he still has the ability to start 25 games a season, and could add depth and options to a Dodgers rotation that thus far has left much to be desired.
Perhaps a contract through the end of this season, laden with incentives could be an option for Washburn and the Dodgers.
The main source of the space between Jarrod and prospective teams was the high dollar amount sought after by his agent, over-anticipating the need for his services.
Thoughts of retirement from Washburn have surfaced in the media lately, a sign that he may sign for less if given an opportunity to compete.
However, a constant hindrance will make itself known in all contract negotiations. The divorce continues between Dodgers principle owner, Frank McCourt, and his estranged wife, Jamie. In fact, all of these options may be at the fingertips of the organization once the legal complications are resolved.
There are few teams in "The Bigs" that can weather Pedro's storm of emotions and constant publicity distractions; Los Angeles, the Dodgers, and Chavez Ravine may be able to take on the load.
Martinez was a vital part to the Philadelphia Phillies post-season run in 2009. He went 5-1 with a 3.63 Earned Run Average.
Pedro has a career 2.93 ERA and is a healthy season away from recording his 3,000th major league inning.
Perhaps an ongoing discussion topic could be Pedro's motivation. He already has over 200 career major league wins, a World Series Championship ring with the 2004 Boston Red Sox, and a reputation for the dramatic that makes him difficult to work with.
The possibility to reunite with former teammate Manny Ramirez nearly lured the infamous righty to LA. If Hollywood can embrace Manny's on-the-field and off-the-field everyday antics, maybe Pedro may have his place returning to Dodger Blue.
A potential first-ballot Hall of Famer, Martinez and the Dodgers were consistently intertwined during the 2009 off-season, but the two sides couldn't agree on a contract figure. Following the 2009 season, Pedro again found himself in free agent limbo.
A mid-season headline may reveal an incentive-laden deal for Pedro to dawn the Dodgers' uniform. This veteran may look good in sporting a blue cap with white lettering. Chills? Flashbacks of the early 90's? Can anyone blame you?
You're probably thinking, "Wait, isn't he already a Dodger?" The answer is "yes," and yet he hasn't pitched an inning thus far this season. There is much to be said about a level of class that must be maintained when handed great responsibilities.
Whether Ronald Belisario was under the influence while driving has little relevance to his absence from the team. Quite frankly, he shouldn't have been in this situation in the beginning.
If may be worst-case scenario, and every situation is different, but he may have been lost forever if a few factors of that day had been changed. The loss of Nick Adenhart is still fresh in fans' memories, and although Nick was not driving drunk, Major League Baseball doesn't need another story of celebrities being irresponsible.
Compounded with the recent shortcomings of the Dodgers bullpen, Belisario's vacancy in the bullpen is even more evident. With all good faith, this situation will be resolved quickly, and Belisario will continue his dominance, right where he left off last season.
It will be interesting to see if these points are even more at the forefront as the season gains momentum. With a week and a half expired in the 2010 season, concerns are standing out, maybe the Dodgers will consider these options in the near future.