On May 12, 2010, the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated their first sweep of the season, defeating the Arizona Diamondback in a three-game series.
With the help of six consecutive losses from the stumbling D'backs, coupled with a four-game winning streak of their own, the Dodgers have climbed out of the bottom of the National League West.
The last three games against the D'backs have showcased a potent Dodgers offense headlined by a healthy Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier, NL Leader in all Triple Crown categories.
Considering the recent Dodgers surge some may be even convinced that their slow start to the season was just a minor aberration for a team destined to take the NL West for a third consecutive year.
However, their offensive successes have only managed to temporarily mask their blatant weakness in starting pitching. With only three starters healthy from last season, forty percent of their pitching rotation remain in flux.
Charlie Haeger (0-4, 8.49 ERA), the team's 5th starter, imploded in his May 8 appearance against the Colorado Rockies allowing five runs before getting an out and promptly getting the hook. He is now trying recover from a broken psyche (correction bruised heel) on the 15-day disabled list.
Vicente Padilla, the Dodgers' opening day starter is (1-1, 6.65 ERA) this season and has been on the DL since April 24, is not expected to return until June.
Rookie John Ely (1-1, 3.86 ERA) has been a pleasant surprise in three starts but it's still too soon to see if he can be consistent.
Rule-5 draftee Carlos Monasterios provided the team with a decent effort in a spot start (4.0 IP, 1 ER, 73 pitches) although the team believes he is better suited to pitch out of the bullpen.
Putting further emphasis on the Dodgers' need for starting pitching, 36-year-old Ramon Ortiz with a 5.16 ERA out of the bullpen is slated to make his first start over the weekend against the Padres. Ortiz will be the 8th different Dodgers starting pitcher this season.
The deficiencies in the starting rotation have been exposed this season. Rumors swirling out of Los Angeles is that the Dodgers are trying to acquire a starter via trade.
It could have all been avoided if the Dodgers had simply brought back Jon Garland.
Fact is, the Dodgers overestimated the availability of starting pitching this past winter.
Looking to trim payroll during the off-seasonthe team elected to buyout the last year of Garland's $10 million contract for $2.5 million. They also opted not to re-sign Randy Wolf who went on to sign a three-year contract totalling nearly $30 million with the Milwaukee Brewers.
With $7.5 million in net savings from the Garland buyout they chose to re-sign the enigmatic 32-year old Vicente Padilla to a $5 million contract.
Had the Dodgers not re-signed Padilla and picked up Garland's $10 million option instead, it would have only required an extra $2.5 million commitment from the team.
In retrospect, retaining Garland who is two years younger than Padilla, at an additional cost of $2.5 million is a small to price to pay for a proven veteran pitcher that can help solidify the starting rotation.
Garland v. Padilla
On the other hand, the last time Padilla started at least 32 games was in 2006 when won a career best 15 games in 33 starts. Over the last two years he has served four stints on the DL.
And who can forget the much publicized fallout with the Rangers organization? When he was designated for assignment late last season, a move which Rangers management said was the result of his behavior on and off the field.
Where is Garland Now?
Now pitching for the Padres, Garland (4-2, 1.71 ERA) has found a home in San Diego.
Despite being offered a more lucrative contract by the Washington Nationals, Garland chose to stay in Southern California, close to his Valencia home.
Moreover, he recognized that playing half of his games in the confines of pitcher-friendly Petco Park would be beneficial to his career.
As a Dodger in 2009, Garland went 3-2 with a 2.73 ERA in six starts.
At the time, the Dodgers could not justify investing $10 million on a number 4 or 5 starter. But the reality--is buying him out and finding someone else to replace his consistent production will probably cost the Dodgers more money had they just kept him.
If the Padres go on to win the NL West, this mistake could haunt the Dodgers for a very long time.
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