At 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, the Dodgers settled their fifth starter competition with a roster move. By optioning Zach Lee to the minor leagues, a day after giving Brandon Beachy time to rest his sore elbow, the club handed the job to Mike Bolsinger.
About 25 minutes later, Bolsinger took the mound for a start against San Diego and warmed up with a curveball. He felt a grab in his left side. The sensation remained on his next pitch, so Bolsinger took himself out before the game began. The initial diagnosis released by the team was abdominal tightness, a minor ailment that still disrupts the team’s planning for the start of the season.
“It’s bad timing,” Bolsinger said. “Especially right now.”
The dents to Bolsinger and Beachy add to the growing list of maladies to plague the club this spring. Brett Anderson’s back surgery will keep him down for three to five months. Hyun-Jin Ryu experienced soreness in his throwing shoulder, slowing his comeback. In the infield, Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick and Corey Seager have all sat out due to injuries.
The deluge of dings has tested the club’s purported strength. The Dodgers stockpiled assets this winter as a hedge against injuries — Beachy, for example, will be paid $1.5 million this season despite not occupying a slot on the 40-man roster. Already their roster is under duress.
“We didn’t want to call on our depth so soon,” Roberts said. “I think it’s a little bit of a perfect storm right now. But we’re fortunate where we’re at as a organization, for sure. I think that’s been a narrative this entire winter, and it’s kind of come to fruition. But we’ll get through this.”
A more probable scenario invites Lee and Carlos Frias back into the conversation. The Dodgers can bring Lee back to big league camp. They also can stretch out Frias, who has been operating as a reliever this spring, or Joe Blanton, who signed a $4 million contract to join the team’s bullpen this winter. Blanton logged three innings in a game against Milwaukee on Sunday.
Frias, 26, started 13 games for the Dodgers last season with a 4.42 earned-run average. He gave up two runs in 2 2/3 innings Sunday, which set his Cactus League ERA at 3.38.
“He’s definitely in the conversation,” Roberts said.
Beachy drifted toward the fringe of the discussion over the weekend. On Friday, he gave up six runs in an unsightly performance against Arizona. A day later, he reported discomfort in his right elbow.
“I’m not concerned,” Beachy said. “I’m more frustrated. I don’t want to take a couple days off.”
Neither does Bolsinger. The afternoon opened as a coronation. With Beachy down and Lee out, the last spot in the rotation belonged to him. He was the favorite when Anderson’s back gave out — Bolsinger posted a 3.62 ERA in 21 starts last season — and a path onto the big league staff was now cleared for him.
Then his body betrayed him.
The Dodgers assembled this roster to protect against the bumps and bruises of the season. After another malady vexed them Sunday, they intended to regroup and chart a different course of action. And Bolsinger hoped for his side to loosen up and his route to the majors to straighten out.
“It’s a little bit of a disappointment,” Bolsinger said. “It worries me a little bit. But I just want to come back in tomorrow, work on things and see how it goes.”