What would you do if you were Eric Stults?
You’re 29 years old, no longer a kid. You’ve split your last few seasons between triple A and the majors.
You’ve been presented with a chance to make your place on the big league roster something more permanent.
You’re pitching well. Then, you sprain the thumb on your pitching hand.
You get hit hard in Colorado.
On Saturday, you get hit even harder, lasting only three-plus innings in the Dodgers’ most lopsided defeat of the season, a 7-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
What do you do?
Do you rest your thumb, knowing that your spot in the rotation could go to someone else? Or do you pitch through it, hoping that somehow, some way, the results will get better?
Stults knows what he wants.
“I really don’t want to take time off,” he said.
The choice probably won’t be his to make.
Opening-day starter Hiroki Kuroda is due back Monday and either Stults or fellow left-hander Eric Milton will be pushed out of the Dodgers’ patchwork rotation.
Manager Joe Torre has made it clear he wants Milton to remain a part of his team, citing the former All-Star’s experience and clubhouse presence.
Milton, who will start the Dodgers’ series finale against the Cubs tonight, was sidelined for the entire 2008 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he won his first game in almost three years in his last start at Colorado.
Torre said he could tell Stults’ thumb was bothering him Saturday, when he was charged with four runs and six hits in three innings. Stults (4-2) walked two batters and hit another.
“It looked like he was feeling [for command],” Torre said. “I know the thumb isn’t completely gone.”
Stults, who pitched the Dodgers’ only shutout of the season May 9, admitted that much.
“It’s going to be sore for a while,” he said. “It’s still there.”
Asked if Stults could be headed to the disabled list, Torre replied, “We’ll have to see how it is and talk about it. We’re certainly going to have to find out because it just won’t go away. It’s not strange that it wouldn’t.”
For Stults, the alternative might be the bullpen. Or another demotion to the minors.
On another day, the Dodgers’ potent offense might have kept them in the game.
Not Saturday. Not with Ryan Dempster dealing the way he was.
Dempster tossed seven scoreless innings, as the Dodgers were held to five hits and shut out for the first time this season. They didn’t get a runner to third base until two out in the ninth inning.
In Torre’s eyes, Stults pitched well in the first two innings, limiting the damage to a run-scoring by Mike Fontenot in the second.
Then, Torre said, “It looked like he got a little tentative.”
The Cubs doubled their lead to 2-0 in the third inning, as Ryan Theriot scored on a bunt single by Reed Johnson.
Stults walked Bobby Scales to start the fourth inning, served up a triple to Fontenot and his day was over. By the end of the inning, which was finished with Guillermo Mota on the mound, the Dodgers trailed, 4-0.
Long reliever Jeff Weaver, who has a damaged digit of his own, also had a rough day.
Weaver, who has nursed a blood blister on his middle finger in recent weeks, walked five batters in 2 1/3 innings and was charged with three runs and three hits.
“It held up today,” Weaver said of his finger. “It didn’t re-open.”
Weaver said his finger didn’t affect him.
At least not directly.
“When you don’t throw in a while, you feel good and you overthrow a little bit,” Weaver said. “I think that was the case today.”