A smile crossed
"Hi Kenta!" Roberts said. "How's the hamstring?"
Kenta Maeda looked up at his manager and shrugged. A few minutes earlier, the
Six weeks into the season, the Dodgers have settled upon a strategy designed to maximize the effectiveness of their starters while mitigating the risk of injury. The team does not expect any pitcher other than
Maeda is the fourth member of the rotation to be sidelined. The severity of the injury depends on the individual.
"You find a way to manage it, between trying to rotate guys, moving guys to the bullpen if you need to, optioning guys if you need to," general manager Farhan Zaidi said. "There are ways to manage it."
Despite the interchangeable parts, the Dodgers rotation ranks fourth in the major leagues with a 3.53 earned-run average and second in FanGraphs’ version of wins above replacement. The strategy is not fool-proof. Ryu looked rusty in a 10-run torching in his return against the
The commissioner's office reviewed the Maeda situation, according to a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to discuss it publicly. The Dodgers are not expected to face any repercussions, in part because the team holds minor-league options on Maeda, and did not need to find an injury to remove him from the 25-man roster.
There was some consternation over Roberts' explanation that the injury occurred weeks before the team shut Maeda down. It has become increasingly routine for the league office to review disabled-list placements. Although a team's medical staff must certify an injury in order for a player to go on the disabled list, the league's medical director and baseball operations department can review that certification and ask the team's medical staff for more information.
It was unclear whether the league conducted the Maeda review on its own or did so upon the request of another team, although it is not uncommon for teams to complain that rivals are using the disabled list inappropriately. Speaking generally, MLB’s chief baseball officer
Zaidi indicated he was not concerned about the team running afoul of the rules.
"At the end of the day, Major League Baseball has oversight on this," he said. "When guys get put on the D.L., they often request medical records. They see that a doctor has said this player is not 100%, not at his fully accustomed level."
In the past, shutting down a pitcher for 15 days meant missing at least two starts and often required a minor-league rehabilitation start. By removing five days from the equation, a pitcher may miss only one outing. McCarthy got ready for his start Monday by throwing a simulated game last Wednesday.
Zaidi downplayed the suggestion that the Dodgers came into the season expecting to rotate seven pitchers through the rotation. The math became more complicated when Ryu, for the first time in two years, was sound at the conclusion of
"It's created a different dynamic than we expected to have at this time of year," Zaidi said.
Yet the Dodgers also harbor realistic expectations for the group. Julio Urias is working under an innings restriction. Wood underwent elbow surgery last summer. McCarthy sat out most of the 2015 and 2016 seasons after elbow ligament replacement surgery; Ryu made one start during those two seasons after shoulder surgery. Hill has undergone an elbow reconstruction and shoulder surgery, and his blisters are well-documented. Maeda faded in the second half of 2016, and his physical examination reportedly showed irregularities in his elbow and shoulder.
"Most of us come with a checkered injury history," McCarthy said. "If you feel something coming up, or there's a chance to get a breather, then I think you have to give that a shot."
Kershaw remains the outlier. Roberts does not intend to ask Kershaw about taking 10 days off. Informed of this, Kershaw grinned. "I would hope not," he said, but he offered an endorsement of the team-wide plan.
"With the way we're built and the depth that we have, it makes sense to figure out creative ways to give guys [time off]," Kershaw said. "Or, if they do have something ailing, to utilize the 10-day D.L."
For Roberts, the situation requires communication and self-awareness. The team must remain open with the pitchers about their plans. The players must understand their own limitations. The milestone of 200 innings, McCarthy reasoned, might become "reserved for real horses, guys who can do it. And with everybody else, it's like 'Let's get what we can,' but also avoid major injury."
Roberts said he has promised the players that no one will lose a job after suffering an injury. He hoped the group would remain forthcoming about any minor dings and dents. "It's almost like, don't be stupid, really," Hill said. "If something is bothering you, speak up."
On Monday, Wood was named
"I'm trying not to think about that right now," he said. "I'm just waiting for them to tell me I get to start in five more days."