How the Dodgers' Pitching Injuries Shake Up the National League Playoff Picture

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIApril 22, 2013

Chad Billingsley is headed to the disabled list.
Chad Billingsley is headed to the disabled list.Rob Tringali/Getty Images

When it comes to injuries the Los Angeles Dodgers have had their fair share this year.

The pitching staff has been hit especially hard with injuries to Zack Greinke, Chad Billingsley and Chris Capuano.

Greinke is on the shelf for at least two months after his brawl with San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin, according to

Billingsley was recently placed on the 15-day disabled list with elbow discomfort which could require surgery, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Billingsley underwent an MRI exam Saturday. He is scheduled to be examined by team physician Neal ElAttrache on Tuesday.

Because ElAttrache hasn't reviewed the results of the MRI exam, Billingsley said he couldn't rule out an operation.

"It's too soon to tell," Billingsley said.

Then there's Capuano, who the Dodgers had considered trading before the start of the season due to their high volume of starters.

Capuano's calf has been bothering him, which was given a platelet-rich injection last week.

So that's three starters that are on the disabled list.

The loss of Greinke will no doubt hurt until he returns. But couple that with the other injuries and there is trouble brewing in Los Angeles.

The Good News

There is one bit of good news in all of this that will bring some relief to Dodger fans.

Ted Lilly is healthy again and will make his season debut on Wednesday.

When healthy, Lilly is a guy that can go out and start 30 games in a season. Starting in 2003, Lilly has started 30 games in seven of the last 10 years. In the two that he didn't start 30 games he started 25 and 27 games.

Throw in the fact that he'll strike out 160-180 batters and you've got something good coming to the mound.

Clayton Kershaw is in this category because he's a dominant pitcher and the true ace of the team. If the Dodgers are going to stay in the playoff race while Greinke is out, Kershaw is going to have to step up his game even more.

Now the Bad

You won't see Greinke until after the all-star break, which hurts considering the Dodgers are already five games out in their division.

The Dodgers no longer have two aces at the top of the rotation, which makes opposing teams breathe a sigh of relief.

Hyun-Jin Ryu is no ace and is better suited as a No. 3 pitcher.

Josh Beckett is struggling out of the gate, going 0-3 with a 4.68 ERA. His career as a good pitcher could be finishing. He might be entering the territory of being a serviceable pitcher, one that you throw out there just to eat innings.

Then there's Stephen Fife, who gave up four runs in 4.2 innings in his only start this year.

Fife is not a long-term solution in the rotation as I think that he is better suited in a long-relief role. However, his services are needed in the rotation and that's where the Dodgers will use him until someone returns healthy.

How This Affects the Playoff Picture

The pitching is only a small piece of the playoff picture for the Dodgers, although it seems larger with the injuries.

Couple the injuries to the pitching staff to Hanley Ramirez's injury, and Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier not hitting, and you have some serious issues.

The Dodgers have a rough month ahead as the Marlins (May 10-12) are their only series where they are the favorites to win the series.

Outside of that, the Dodgers travel to the New York Mets before coming home for series against both the Brewers and Rockies. The Giants and Diamondbacks are up next with the Nationals and Braves waiting for the Dodgers after their series with the Marlins.

Needless to say, the next month isn't going to be much fun for Los Angeles.

The Dodgers could soon find themselves out of the playoff picture, leaving fans to wonder about this high-priced team with so much hope.

Don't be surprised to see the Dodgers sell off a few pieces and get ready for next year if they struggle through the all-star break

After all, some of those contracts they have ensure that those players aren't going anywhere.


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