Zack Greinke's elbow becomes a worry for Dodgers

Zack Greinke's elbow becomes a worry for Dodgers
Dodgers starter Zack Greinke looks on during a game against the Atlanta Braves on July 30. Greinke will miss his scheduled start Thursday because of soreness in his elbow. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Their rotation already depleted, the Dodgers are pushing back Zack Greinke's next start by two days.

With Greinke bothered by something in his elbow he has trouble describing, Clayton Kershaw will take the mound on regular four days' rest for the Dodgers when they face the San Diego Padres on Thursday in the final game of their three-game series at Dodger Stadium. Dan Haren is scheduled to start on Friday against the New York Mets, followed by Greinke on Saturday.

As much as Greinke and the Dodgers downplayed their concerns about his health, the development was disconcerting when viewed in a wider context.

In the wake of a 4-1 defeat to the Padres on Wednesday night, the Dodgers' lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West is down to three games.

The Dodgers' advantage was cut by 11/2 games in a single day, as the Giants not only beat the Chicago Cubs but also learned their loss the previous night was no longer a loss. The Giants protested the calling of their rain-shortened defeat Tuesday night, saying the final 41/2 innings couldn't be played because of a "malfunction of a mechanical field device under the control of the home club" — in this case, a tarp. The game is now categorized as a suspended game, the remainder of which will be played Thursday.

The Dodgers 'rotation is a greater concern.

Hyun-Jin Ryu is on the disabled list with a strained buttock muscle and Manager Don Mattingly still can't offer a timetable for his return. Josh Beckett has a torn labrum in his hip and is unlikely to pitch again this season.

Their replacements haven't inspired confidence.


Roberto Hernandez, a recent trade acquisition who stepped in for Beckett, lasted only five innings Wednesday night.

Hernandez's performance followed a five-inning start the previous night by Kevin Correia.

In the Dodgers' last five games, only once has the starter pitched beyond the fifth inning. That was Kershaw, in a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.

Greinke said he is convinced his elbow problem is minor. Asked if he was certain he would start Saturday, he said, "Yes. I can't predict how I'll feel when I do pitch, but I'll feel good enough to pitch, that's for sure."

Greinke even went as far as to say he thinks he might have been able to pitch Thursday.

He compared the discomfort he feels now to what he felt in spring training last season.

Greinke went on to make 28 starts in 2013.

"Nothing wrong with the ligament," Greinke said. "It's just something that comes and goes. I can't guarantee it will be good from here on out, but I don't plan on having any issues with it."

Greinke said his elbow has bothered him for the last month. He was uncertain how much the discomfort was responsible for his recent slide, during which he has lost four of his last five decisions.

"I haven't pitched that great lately," he said. "I don't know if that's had much to do with it or not. But I felt fine, like I told you guys, after starts. I just haven't pitched as good. It could be a lot of things."

Greinke expects to pitch with discomfort for the remainder of the season.

"I expect to be able to pitch at 100% level, but I don't expect to feel 100% while doing it," he said.

Whatever the case, he was certain his elbow wouldn't present any major problems.

"More than likely, if something happens, it shouldn't be anything serious," he said. "There's different levels of seriousness, but it shouldn't be something to where I miss an extended amount of time if I did have a problem."

If there's anything positive about this situation, it's the timing.

The Dodgers have two days off next week, which will offer them some flexibility. They don't play Monday, meaning they have the option of starting Kershaw on regular rest Tuesday or on five days' rest the following day.

Also, if Greinke can't start Saturday, the schedule would allow them to place him on the disabled list without replacing him in the rotation. Because Greinke pitched last Aug. 15, he would be eligible to be activated on Aug. 31. Teams will be permitted to expand their rosters to as many as 40 players the next day.