Manager Don Mattingly described the Dodgers lineup Wednesday as a "winning lineup."
Winning their division, perhaps. Winning this particular game, no.
Mindful of the 75 games remaining in the regular season, the Dodgers didn't start several key players and fielded what resembled a spring-training split-squad lineup.
With Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe in reserve roles, the Dodgers dropped a 5-4 decision to the Cleveland Indians, their second defeat in the three-game series at Dodger Stadium.
"It was a tough game," Mattingly said. "It was one of those days we knew we had to get people off their feet."
Mattingly sounded as if he is prepared to make an even more substantial sacrifice Thursday, when the Dodgers open a four-game series against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
Ramirez could be put on the 15-day disabled list.
Mattingly made that concession only a day after saying there were no such plans for the All-Star shortstop.
Mattingly said the Dodgers have viewed Thursday as the "drop-dead date" to put Ramirez on the disabled list. If the Dodgers make the move by then, Ramirez would be eligible to be activated July 18, the day the team returns from the All-Star break.
"Obviously, we don't want to DL Hanley," Mattingly said. "But we also want him healthy. For him to keep playing nicked up and keep playing nicked up and keep playing nicked up and keep playing part-time, it's not really good for anybody. It's not good for him, it's not good for us. We'd like to, at some point, get him healthy."
Ramirez has started only one of the last nine games and was limited to pinch-hitting in each of the last three. He has a tight left calf muscle and continues to receive treatment for an irritated right shoulder.
Mattingly said Ramirez doesn't have any of the back problems he experienced last season. But take that for what it's worth: Mattingly flip-flopping on Ramirez's status is the latest example of the Dodgers' ambiguity with medical information.
Whereas Ramirez was physically incapable of starting against the Indians, the other three regulars on the bench were held back because Mattingly wanted them to recharge.
Gonzalez has a sore neck that Mattingly described as a minor ailment. Gonzalez pinch-hit in the eighth inning and played the ninth.
Uribe is 35 and Mattingly has said he wanted to limit his playing time to ensure he doesn't return to the disabled list.
As for Puig, Mattingly said, "He's been looking tired to me."
Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have looked that way, too, which is why they could be out of the lineup sometime during the series in Colorado.
Mattingly expects the coming months to be grueling.
Even with the Dodgers winning 13 of their last 19 games and the first-place San Francisco Giants imploding lately, Mattingly said he isn't counting on his team winning the National League West by a wide margin the way it did last season.
"I think we have a good club and I really believe they've got a good club," Mattingly said about the Giants. "I don't feel like they're going to fade away and I don't think we're going to go away."
The short-term victim of Mattingly's long-term planning Thursday was Hyun-Jin Ryu, who was denied his 10th victory on a day the Dodgers started rookies Clint Robinson, Miguel Rojas and Carlos Triunfel.
Ryu pitched well, limiting the Indians to two runs over seven innings.
He was understanding of Mattingly's thought process.
"I completely understand the position players have to get a break and rest and heal," Ryu said through an interpreter. "It would have been wonderful to get a win today, but we didn't. It's not the end of the world. We still have a long season to go.
"For us right now, the most important thing is that these position players stay healthy long into the season."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times