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By Jon Weisman
If the Dodgers are looking to replace Dan Haren in their starting rotation while having to also place Paul Maholm on the disabled list, following the rough events of the team’s 8-2 loss to the Cubs on Friday, it could mark the end to an unusual trait of this season’s starting pitching.
Each of the previous nine years under general manager Ned Colletti, the Dodgers have dipped into their minor-league pitching at least 10 starts and often many more. But through the first 110 games of 2014, only two games have been started by minor-league pitchers.
Starts by Dodger minor-league pitchers
2014: 2 (Stephen Fife, Red Patterson)
2013: 16 (Stephen Fife 10, Matt Magill 6)
2012: 15 (Nathan Eovaldi 10, Stephen Fife 5)
2011: 22 (Rubby De La Rosa 10, Nathan Eovaldi 6, Dana Eveland 5, John Ely 1)
2010: 19 (John Ely 18, James McDonald)
2009: 22 (Eric Stults 10, Eric Milton 5, James McDonald 4, Charlie Haeger 3)
2008: 30 (Clayton Kershaw 21, Eric Stults 7, Jason Johnson 2)
2007: 11 (Hung-Chih Kuo 6, Eric Stults 5)
2006: 23 (Chad Billingsley 16, Aaron Sele 5, Eric Stults 2)
(Note: This list doesn’t included midseason acquisitions, nor pitchers primarily moving between the Dodgers’ bullpen and their rotation.)
Every year has its own flavor. In 2006, for example, the Dodgers had more than one veteran pitcher (Brett Tomko, Mark Hendrickson, Jae Weong Seo) end up in the Maholm role, in the same year that Chad Billingsley ultimately came up and claimed a spot in the rotation, while Aaron Sele bought them a month. In 2008, the Dodgers had the arrival of 20-year-old Clayton Kershaw and the return of 42-year-old Greg Maddux in the same season. In 2010, John Ely was essentially the Dodgers’ only starter from the minors, but he held a spot in the rotation from late April into July, the same year that a Rule 5 pickup (Carlos Monasterios) took 13 starts and only after another pseudo-minor leaguer, Charlie Haeger, had gone awry.
In any case, that the Dodgers would get 108 out of their first 110 starts from six veteran pitchers who have been with the team all season has no recent precedent.
One other thing I would add is that because of the pro-hitting environment in the Pacific Coast League, the minor leaguers who have been used (whether veterans hanging on or rookies coming up) sometimes perform better with the Dodgers than they have in Triple-A.
- Eric Stults in 2008: 3.82 ERA in AAA, 3.49 with Dodgers
- Charlie Haeger in 2009: 3.55 in AAA, 3.32 with Dodgers
- John Ely in 2010: 6.22 ERA in AAA, 5.49 with Dodgers (2.54 in first seven starts)
- Stephen Fife in 2012: 4.66 ERA in AAA, 2.70 with Dodgers
The romance of a minor-leaguer seizing his moment in his first big-league trial is never far away.
Red Patterson (5.70 ERA), Zach Lee (5.22 ERA) and Carlos Frias (5.01 ERA) are the top three candidates from Albuquerque should the Dodgers look to call up a starting pitcher from there, with Chris Reed (3.32 ERA) the top name from Double-A Chattanooga — which in 2011 pushed Nathan Eovaldi and Rubby De La Rosa directly to the big leagues. (Chad Moriyama of Dodgers Digest has more on these options.)
Of course, if the Dodgers keep Haren in their rotation but Maholm still goes on the DL, then several more relief pitchers are on the table for a recall. And the passing of the non-waiver trading deadline doesn’t preclude the Dodgers from picking up a pitcher from outside the franchise, should they so choose.