Kenta Maeda could return to the Dodgers’ starting rotation this week, Rich Hill next week, Clayton Kershaw in the not-too-distant future. Ross Stripling and Walker Buehler each merits a spot in the rotation.
Could Alex Wood become the odd man out?
Wood has started 13 games this year. He has won one. The Dodgers’ front office does not consider wins as an accurate barometer of a pitcher’s performance, but Wood’s starts this season have been consistent only in their brevity.
In his first 13 starts last season, on his way to the All-Star game, Wood went 9-0 with a 1.79 ERA. In his first 13 starts this season, he is 1-5 with a 4.43 ERA.
It would not be fair to pin the Dodgers’ 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday solely on Wood. The Dodgers (32-32) fell back to .500 because they managed six hits off five Atlanta pitchers.
The Dodgers gave up 14 hits and used seven pitchers of their own, the last one Daniel Corcino, called up Saturday from triple-A Oklahoma City. Corcino became the 25th pitcher used by the Dodgers this season; they used 26 all of last season.
The Dodgers got their first run on a first-inning home run from their most unexpectedly delightful contributor this season, the amazing Max Muncy. They scored their other runs on a groundout and a wild pitch.
Muncy has 11 home runs this season, one more than Anthony Rizzo, three more than Kris Bryant.
Muncy reached base all four times Saturday, on the home run and three walks.
Wood is not at fault when his team cannot score, and Saturday’s game marked the fifth time this season that the Dodgers have not scored more than three runs in a game he has started.
But, after pitching eight innings in his first start this season, he has not pitched more than six since. In his last three starts, he has combined to pitch 12 innings, giving up 15 runs and 20 hits.
“It’s been a tough three starts for me,” Wood said, “probably the toughest of my career.”
Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ manager, said Wood was “not 100% synced up right now,” with his fastball command and his breaking ball inconsistent and his changeup largely absent. Roberts said Wood was fighting through some issues “physically and mechanically” with a leg; Wood said any issues were solely mechanical.
On Saturday, all but one of the Braves’ runs off Wood scored with two out, two on a double by Tyler Flowers in the third inning, one on a single by Flowers in the fifth. The Braves scored their first run in the second inning, on a single by ex-Dodger Charlie Culberson.
Wood gave up nine hits in 42/3 innings and 92 pitches, marking the third time in seven starts that he has made more than 90 pitches but failed to work beyond the fifth inning.
The Dodgers have not let him make more than 100 pitches in any start in the last two years.
They have spoken highly of his ability as a reliever, and in fact they put him in the bullpen when they broke camp last spring. In 37 career relief appearances, his ERA is 2.53.
Roberts said the Dodgers do not need to consider whether Wood might fit better in the bullpen until they get five healthy starters.
“We know that, like Kenta, he’s done it before and had success there,” Roberts said. “But until we get these guys back and can sustain some health, right now I just don’t think that’s a conversation we need to have.”
Wood’s self-assessments have been frank.
“This loss is on me,” Wood said May 26, after giving up three home runs in 51/3 innings of a 7-5 loss to the San Diego Padres.
“To win in spite of that start I had today was pretty impressive,” Wood said June 3, after giving up six runs in two innings of a 10-7 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
Saturday’s start was his first since then.
“There’s a lot of baseball left to be played,” he said. “I can promise you that, when we get down that stretch, I’ll be playing my best baseball of the year.”
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin