The Dodgers are in first place, but they might not be for long if something doesn’t change.
“I don’t think we can sustain this pace,” Manager Don Mattingly said.
The bullpen is overworked, enough to where the Dodgers decided to face the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday with a four-man bench so they could add hard-throwing reliever Jose Dominguez to their roster.
Whatever Chone Figgins’ demotion to triple-A Albuquerque did to address the potential crisis was almost immediately undone by Paul Maholm, who pitched only five innings of a 7-0 defeat at Dodger Stadium.
Dominguez and Brandon League pitched two innings each.
This wasn’t what Mattingly wanted, particularly with the Dodgers scheduled to play in 22 of the next 23 days.
In the 19 games the Dodgers played before Monday, their relievers pitched 701/3 innings. The only bullpen used more was that of the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks, who had played two more games.
Mattingly acknowledged he was concerned about how he had already used Kenley Jansen. The closer has pitched in 13 games, which leads the major leagues.
In a tie for second place with 11 appearances are two Dodgers: right-hander Chris Perez and left-hander J.P. Howell.
Right-hander Jamey Wright has pitched in 10 games.
As a result of their heavy workloads, Mattingly has often been forced to refrain from using certain pitchers on certain nights. For example, Jansen was presumably unavailable Monday after pitching in three of the last four days.
“Every day, it seems like we’re walking that tightrope,” Mattingly said.
That’s because of the starters.
Through Sunday, the starters had a collective earned-run average of 2.45, third-best in the majors. But they were averaging only 5.6 innings per start, which ranked 23rd.
Health has been a factor.
Clayton Kershaw, who has topped 200 innings in each of the last four seasons, is on the disabled list because of a strained back muscle.
Zack Greinke’s spring throwing program was disrupted by a strained calf muscle. Coincidentally or not, Greinke has pitched six or fewer innings in each of his four starts.
Josh Beckett underwent an operation last year to remove a rib and still hasn’t pitched more than five innings.
One of Hyun-Jin Ryu’s starts lasted only two innings.
The bullpen was further burdened by the four extra-inning games the team played in the last two weeks.
The Dodgers considered dropping a bench player last week in order to add a reliever. They actually did it Monday.
“It’s hopefully a temporary thing,” Mattingly said.
The only players on the Dodgers bench Monday were Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Dee Gordon and Drew Butera.
The Dodgers are thinking of staying with a four-man bench through their series in Minnesota next week, which concludes May 1. With the designated hitter available in the series against the Twins, Mattingly figures there will be less of a need to double switch, thereby allowing the Dodgers to play with a short bench.
Help could be on the way.
Kershaw reported feeling fine after pitching Sunday in a simulated game. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Tuesday, which would line him up to start Friday in a minor league game.
“I don’t want to jinx anything, but he’s almost a guaranteed six [innings],” Mattingly said. “And there’s a lot of times he’s going seven or more.
“So, it’s almost a day, in the pen, you can count on certain guys getting rest.”