The Los Angeles Dodgers are probably OK. As frustrating as Rich Hill's blister issues are -- he was activated from the 10-day disabled list to start on Sunday, but lasted just three innings when the issues on his middle finger popped up again -- they have more starting pitching depth than any team in the majors.
Ross Stripling replaced Hill on Sunday and pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, although the Dodgers lost 3-1 to the Diamondbacks. Stripling made 14 starts as a rookie last year and could start again this year. Alex Wood is also in the bullpen and he already started once in place of Hill. Buried down at Oklahoma City to preserve innings is 20-year-old phenom Julio Urias, although he's off to a slow start with six walks in 8.1 innings. Brock Stewart is out until May with a shoulder issue and Scott Kazmir is in Arizona, reportedly throwing 74 pitches the other day, although topping out at 88 mph.
Figure in the current members of the rotation besides Hill -- Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu -- and the Dodgers have 10 viable starting pitcher options. But we knew this heading into the season. Even factoring in that McCarthy and Ryu were both injured last year and Maeda signed despite irregularities in his elbow, the Dodgers appear to have plenty of solutions if pitchers other than Hill start going down. Of course, we said this in 2016 and they ran through 15 starting pitchers, including the awful Bud Norris for nine starts.
This has been the mindset of the front office under Andrew Friedman. "Starting pitching has become the most overvalued in the industry because, outside of the aces, they are pitching less innings, with less starts as more depth is needed," Friedman told ESPN colleague Jim Bowden. "We have a tremendous amount of depth on the prospect side and at the major league end by design. Quantity is just as important as quality in today's baseball."
That's all good and reasonable, but here's my take: The Dodgers need Rich Hill to be great. As much success as the Dodgers have had in recent years -- four straight 90-win seasons, four straight NL West titles -- it's World Series or bust for the team with the majors' highest payroll. All that rotation depth wasn't there last October, when they started Kershaw once on three days' rest; Maeda three times even though he was obviously gassed (he lasted just 10.2 innings in three games); and the kid Urias, who got knocked out in the fourth inning in his National League Championship Series start.
The Dodgers' best chance to get to their first World Series since 1988 includes a healthy and dominant Hill in the rotation, and he has been dominant when he hasn't been sidelined by blisters (2.08 ERA since September 2015, but he also missed two months last season with blister issues). The catch for 2017 is the Dodgers may also need a healthy Hill for the regular season. The Dodgers have won 91, 92, 94 and 92 games during this run, but with the Diamondbacks and Rockies looking better so far -- the last time either finished above .500 was 2011 -- winning 91 games may not be as easy. The Dodgers may have to better just to get back to that same win level and avoid the wild-card scramble.
So, yes, this blister issue for Hill is a concern. Stay tuned.
Can we just get Rich Hill a new finger?— J.R. Hernandez (@JRHernandezLA) April 16, 2017
Hill needs to sit for a month. Even then it's going to be an ongoing problem.— Howard Cole (@Howard_Cole) April 16, 2017
Series of the year: The Mets and Marlins played an insane four-game series that should be as good as any series we'll see all season, with the Marlins taking three of four, including the final three in games started by Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey. The Mets won on Thursday in 16 innings; the Marlins won 3-2 on Friday on J.T. Realmuto's walk-off double; the Marlins won 5-4 on Saturday on back-to-back home runs by Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton off Fernando Salas in the eighth inning and, yes, I'm surprised as you that Fernando Salas is pitching important innings; and the Marlins took the finale on backup infielder JT Riddle's first major league homer, a two-out walk-off against Addison Reed. Dan Straily and the bullpen even took a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
As Don Mattingly said, "This is why people love baseball."
Dyson not cleaning up: The Texas Rangers' 4-8 start is mostly about Sam Dyson's bad start. He's now 0-3 with three blown saves and a 27.00 ERA after blowing a 7-6 lead to the Mariners on Sunday. He had pitched a clean inning on Saturday, apparently enough to convince Jeff Banister to trust him with the ball in the ninth. To be fair, there was some bad luck as Seattle scored two runs without getting the ball out of the infield. Jarrod Dyson singled off Dyson's hand and stole second. On Leonys Martin's bunt, Dyson turned to third but nobody was there. After another steal and intentional walk, he walked Mitch Haniger to tie the game and then Nelson Cruz's game-winning hit glanced off the glove of a diving Elvis Andrus.
Still, why take Matt Bush out of the game? He had struck out the side in the eighth, throwing just 11 pitches. Bush hadn't pitched in a week, although maybe Banister didn't want to push Bush after he had a tender shoulder examined earlier in the week. Then again, if Bush isn't healthy enough to throw more than 11 pitches, he shouldn't be on the roster. Bottom line on Dyson: He has struck out just two of the 31 batters he has faced. While he's not a big strikeout pitcher like other closers, instead relying on his hard sinker to get grounders, you're going to survive with that kind of strikeout ratio. Banister's late-game issues remain a problem.
Play of the day: Haniger not only had the game-tying walk and a three-run homer, but preserved a 6-6 tie in the eighth when he robbed Joey Gallo of a two-run homer.
Marc Rzepczynski said he's buying Mitch Haniger a steak dinner. "We can go anywhere he wants."— Matt Calkins (@Matt_Calkins) April 17, 2017
Haniger has been the one Mariner producing at the plate, hitting .294/.410/.588. Sunday's win completed a much-needed series sweep for Seattle, with James Paxton tossing eight scoreless innings on Saturday to give him three scoreless outings to start the season (he has held batters to a .113 average).
Quick thoughts ...: Well, there's this:
Injured or DLed today: Zach Britton, Brandon Finnegan, J.A. Happ, Rich Hill, Jake Odorizzi, Jarrett Parker, Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Semien.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) April 16, 2017
Wondering if we're going to see more DL stints, especially for pitchers, with the new 10-day minimum instead of 15. ... Words I thought I'd never type: "Avisail Garcia is hitting .465." Garcia is one of my least favorite players, a corner outfielder with no power, doesn't walk, bad defender. His well-hit average is up and his chase rate is down, but he's still chasing more than 32 percent of pitches out of the strike zone, so I don't think his approach has altered all that much to get me to buy in. ... Jose Quintana was shelled again on Saturday as he walked five batters. Curse of the World Baseball Classic? ... The Pirates swept the Cubs at Wrigley because of course they did. A good sign considering the Cubs went 14-4 against the Pirates last season and outscored them 114-73. ... Jameson Taillon with a third straight strong outing on Sunday. He's the real deal. ... I'll wait a few more starts before pointing out Paxton and Taillon were on my breakout list for 2017. ... Adam Wainwright scuffled again, throwing 98 pitches in 4.2 innings on Sunday, this after that weird eight-walk, 11-strikeout start by Carlos Martinez on Sunday. Cardinals can't like the way the weekend at Yankee Stadium went. ... Not worried about the Indians, even with their MLB-worst 5.35 ERA. They're fourth in strikeout rate, sixth in lowest walk rate, but 29th in left-on-base percentage.