A day that started with the Dodgers thinking of moving Yasiel Puig to center field ended with a 12-7 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates that presented them with reasons to explore how they could upgrade their pitching staff.
As Puig and Hanley Ramirez continued to be sidelined Tuesday because of bruised left hands, Josh Beckett returned from the 15-day disabled list but failed to subside any concerns about how his 34-year-old body might hold up over the remainder the season.
Beckett made his shortest start of the year, lasting only 3 2/3 innings. He gave up four runs and six hits, including solo home runs by Neil Walker, Ike Davis and Gregory Polanco.
Beckett's unsightly performance was the first of several for the Dodgers, the last of which let the game completely slip out of their grasp.
With what was once an 8-4 deficit reduced to 8-7, right-hander Chris Perez moved closer to pitching his way off the roster in a spectacular late-game meltdown.
Perez retired the first batter he faced, but walked the next four. He was replaced by Brandon League, who served up consecutive hits to Russell Martin and Ike Davis that drove in three runs.
All four runs that inning were charged to Perez, whose earned-run average inflated to 5.35.
The inning forced Manager Don Mattingly to defend his decision to not use dependable left-hander J.P. Howell instead of Perez.
"Our other guys have to be able to hold the score there," Mattingly said.
A former All-Star closer who was let go by the Cleveland Indians over the off-season, Perez showed signs of improvement in recent weeks, giving up only one run in his previous eight appearances.
"Definitely, tonight was a step backwards," Mattingly said.
Perez, Paul Maholm and Jamey Wright gave up a combined eight runs.
Wright inadvertently put shortstop Justin Turner in harm's way, as he struck Andrew McCutchen with a pitch in the Pirates' two-run sixth inning. Reliever Justin Wilson retaliated by drilling Turner in the back with a 97-mph fastball in the seventh inning.
Wilson was ejected by plate umpire Toby Basner, as was Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle, who protested Wilson's dismissal.
Mattingly didn't think the ejections were necessary.
"I think we all understand what happened there," Mattingly said. "It was not a big deal. The only guy that probably didn't handle it was the home-plate umpire. He could have let that go and give warnings and it would have been over."
Wright plunked Martin in the seventh inning in what clearly looked like an accident: He hit Martin in the back with a looping curveball.
Beckett blamed himself for how the game unfolded.
"Our bullpen doesn't deserve that," he said. "They shouldn't have to eat that many innings up."
Beckett landed on the disabled list because of tightness in his left hip, which has a torn labrum.
Clayton Kershaw had a similar condition two seasons ago. Kershaw recovered and avoided surgery. Beckett's immediate future remains uncertain.
Asked how his hip felt, Beckett replied, "Fine. That's not going to be an excuse going forward. I say I'm good to pitch, trainers say I'm good to pitch, that's not an excuse."
Beckett blamed his uncharacteristic performance on being "a little rusty."
Even before Beckett's hip turned into a significant impediment, the Dodgers were in the market for starting pitching leading up to the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. They also remain in search of reinforcements for the bullpen.
As for Puig's potential move from right field to center field, the idea was inspired by Matt Kemp's play in right field Monday night. Kemp has spent the last couple of months in left field.
"I just thought he looked really comfortable," Mattingly said of Kemp. "He's always said that he felt better in right than left. It looked that way last night."
Mattingly wondered whether the Dodgers could move Puig to center, so Kemp could remain in right when Puig returns.
The team's two current center fielders, Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke, lack the athleticism normally associated with the position.
Asked why he hadn't previously thought of playing Puig in center field, Mattingly replied, "Pretty much because he's out of control most of the time. I don't mean it in a bad way, but I think he kind of scares the outfielders from the standpoint that he's not going to give up. He's going to go catch every ball. We've seen it in center when he's in right and he goes all the way into basically Van Slyke's area.
"I think that communication, at this point, is still not where it should be."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times