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Sorry, the Dodgers' pitching rotation is in serious trouble

Dodgers' pitching rotation issues exposed early in the season

Feel better? Didn't think so. You should be very nervous. First place or not, very nervous. And if you’re Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi in the front office?

The biggest question surrounding this year's edition of the Dodgers from the moment they opened camp was the pitching rotation. Strange, perhaps, when it leads off with a pair of aces in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. But that still leaves three-fifths of an uncertain rotation, and if it looked shaky in March, it looks like real trouble now.

The Dodgers knew Hyun-Jin Ryu twice went to the disabled list with a shoulder issue last season. They knew Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson had long histories of injury issues.

Ryu couldn't even post to start the season. McCarthy couldn't make it through the first month before being lost for at least a year to Tommy John surgery. Anderson, who hasn't thrown 90 innings in any of his previous four seasons, is 1-1 with a 4.21 ERA in his first five starts, with a lot of fingers crossed.

Just 27 games into the season the Dodgers have already used nine different starters. This is trouble, folks, and a trend that doesn’t figure to abate unless they make a needed trade for at least a middle-of-the-rotation-caliber starter. And when every team in baseball knows you're in need, that's all the more difficult to pull off.

The Dodgers seem to be looking at Ryu more with their hearts than heads. He's been battling this unspecified shoulder injury for over a year now. They originally thought he would return by mid-May, pushed that back to at least the end of the month when they moved him to the 60-day disabled list and now just don’t seem to have an idea.

Ryu threw a bullpen session Friday and his fastball was almost 10 mph slower than normal. Now they've shut him down again. If surgery seems inevitable, that would require you knew what you were operating on. And according to the Dodgers, a pair of MRIs have failed to detect any real problem beyond inflammation.

If there is a tear too small to show up on an MRI, they're in a very difficult spot. You don’t just do exploratory surgery on a starting pitcher’s shoulder. Are the Dodgers supposed to just keep throwing him until something really tears?

Meanwhile, they can only do this rotation shuffle for so long. Thursday they're starting Carlos Frias, who although he looked good in his only previous start, went 1-1 with 6.12 ERA in 32 1/3 innings last season. They've already tried recycled veterans Scott Baker and David Huff. They got a promising start from Mike Bolsinger and a not-so promising one from Joe Wieland.

They've managed to go 3-3 in the six previous starts by pitchers who weren't supposed to be in the rotation, but there is no way they can count on even that mediocrity continuing. Should they make it to the playoffs, they're going to need a reliable No. 3 starter. And right now, they have Kershaw and Greinke and a lot of trouble.

Follow Steve Dilbeck on Twitter @stevedilbeck

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