I need to start off this blog article with a disclaimer: I absolutely hope and pray that the platelet-rich plasma injections that both Chad Billingsley and Zack Greinke received for their respective elbow ailments work; and that neither will require Tommy John surgery; and that both remain 100% healthy for the entire 2013 season and far beyond.
There. I said it. The wishing, hoping and praying stuff is out of the way; now let’s get down to reality.
In my opinion, if (or perhaps when) Chad Billingsley and/or Zack Greinke require Tommy John surgery this season, the Dodgers will most likely still win the NL West. I say this because of their absolutely terrifying offensive potential and because they have a couple of guys in the fold right now who are more than capable of filling in for Bills or Greinke if necessary – although Stan Kasten, Ned Colletti or Don Mattingly may not realize it yet.
Here again, I am absolutely not wishing bad things on Chad or Zack, not at all; but from what I have seen of 23-year-old Matt Magill and 26-year-old Stephen Fife thus far this spring, I am confident (undoubtedly more so than most) that one or both of these young right-handers are more than capable of filling in for either (or both) Chad Billingsley or Zack Greinke, should either (or both) of them go down for any extended period of time.
I am well aware that Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang or Ted Lilly would most likely be called upon first should the unthinkable happen to Chad or Zack, but for the long haul, I would much rather see Magill and Fife moved into the rotation than any one of these three elder statesmen – and I mean no disrespect to them whatsoever.
I am certainly not foolish enough to believe that the 4 innings that Magill has thrown and the 5 innings that Fife has thrown is an adequate sample size to fairly evaluate them, but having personally witnessed their mound presence and confidence, I would have no problem giving the the ball to either of them every fifth day should Bills or Zack be unable to answer the bell.
Through his four spring training innings, Magill has yet to allow an earned run and has yielded only 3 hits, 1 walk and (get this) 8 strikeouts. And though Fife hasn’t fared quite as well as Matt has this spring, he has allowed only 3 runs on 5 hits with no walks and 5 strikeouts in his five spring training innings. Unfortunately, each of those three runs came via home runs, which is a tough way to leave a good impression on your manager, general manage and team president. However, keep in mind Fife’s impressive 2.70 ERA in the five spot starts that he made for the Dodgers last season while receiving virtually zero run support.
In contrast, in their five spring training innings of work each, Capuano has allowed 6 runs on 7 hits with 1 walk, 6 strikeouts and 4 home runs; and Harang has allowed 6 runs on 11 hits with 3 walks, 3 strikeouts with no home runs allowed. Capuano and Harang currently share identical 10.80 ERAs, which is a bit scary, to say the least.
In spite of Magill’s outstanding performance thus far this spring, he was cut from Big league camp on Monday and sent down to minor league camp, and I have to imagine that this didn’t come as a surprise to him. I mean lets face it, it has been well documented (almost daily) that the Dodgers have eight starting pitchers in camp (Kershaw, Greinke, Billingsley, Ryu, Beckett, Capuano, Harang and Lilly), none of whom have options that would allow them to be sent down to the minors, and Magill and Fife still have several options remaining. The good news is that both Matt and Stephen are already on the Dodgers 40-man roster, so should Billingsley or Greinke land on the DL, corresponding roster moves would not have to be made to bring either or both up to the Big team.
I need to reiterate that should Chad or Zack land on the DL, their immediate replacement(s) would undoubtedly be Capuano, Harang or Lilly – if they are still Dodgers, that is. But if they are not, or if they continue to struggle over the next three weeks of spring training, it’s reassuring to know that the Dodgers have other pitching options – because, as Dodgers owner Mark Walter recently said, “Pitchers break.”