When the Dodgers identified the San Francisco Giants as their primary threat in the National League’s West Division last season, they did whatever possible to ensure Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke would pitch against the Giants as often as possible.
No such measures were taken for the three-game series between the teams that starts Tuesday at AT&T Park. Greinke could pitch in the series, but won’t.
Manager Don Mattingly insisted it has nothing to do with how awful the defending World Series champions have looked in the first two weeks of the season.
The Giants have dropped nine of their last 10 games. They are in last place in the division, six games behind the first-place Dodgers.
“It’s too early for any of that,” Mattingly said.
The Dodgers didn’t play Monday, which presented them with an opportunity to start Greinke on regular four days’ rest in the series finale. Instead, the Dodgers will promote someone from the minor leagues to pitch Thursday and start Greinke in San Diego on Friday.
“This is really just our guys getting rest,” Mattingly said.
The Giants have more significant concerns.
Matt Cain, their former ace, is on the disabled list because of a strained flexor tendon in his right elbow. He had bone chips removed from the same elbow last year.
Jake Peavy, who stepped in for Cain on the team’s World Series run, is down because of a strained back.
The rotation, which was once a franchise cornerstone, now looks like a vulnerability.
Tim Lincecum, who will start the series opener for the Giants, has never regained the form that made him a two-time Cy Young Award winner.
World Series hero Madison Bumgarner pitched 270 innings last season, including 52 2/3 in the playoffs. He will enter his showdown with Kershaw on Wednesday with an earned-run average of 5.29.
With Peavy sidelined, the Giants will look to Ryan Vogelsong or Yusmeiro Petit to start Thursday. A former All-Star, Vogelsong returned to the Giants this season as a long reliever. In his only start this season, he gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings of a loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The team’s best pitcher to date, Chris Heston, won’t pitch against the Dodgers this week. A 27-year-old rookie, Heston has two of the Giants’ four victories.
Pitching is only part of the Giants’ problem, as the team’s offense also has been affected by injuries.
Hunter Pence broke an arm in spring training, depleting power from a lineup already compromised by the off-season departures of power hitters Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse. Pence is projected to return next month.
With Buster Posey (.229), Brandon Belt (.152), Brandon Crawford (.200) and Casey McGhee (.194) off to slow starts, the Giants became the first team this season to strand 100 runners on base.
But the Giants have won three of the last five World Series, which leads Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis to think their early-season slump isn’t reflective of their ability.
“Everyone can see how the Giants are playing right now,” Ellis said. “There is no way that is where that team is going to be at the end. They’re too good a team. They have too much character.”
UP NEXT: Brett Anderson (1-0, 3.27 ERA) will face the Giants and Lincecum (0-1, 2.25) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at AT&T Park. TV: SportsNet LA. Radio: 570, 1020.
Staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.