Brandon McCarthy injury would strain Dodgers' depth

SAN DIEGO -- Nine pitchers have started games for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A club in Oklahoma City so far this young season, and two of those pitchers have also moonlighted for the major-league team.

Another one of those nine pitchers, Scott Baker, will get his audition when he takes the mound Sunday afternoon at Petco Park in the finale of this three-game series.

And the opportunities just keep coming, it seems.

The Dodgers still aren’t sure how seriously Brandon McCarthy’s right elbow injury is, but it was serious enough for him to wave the trainers out and take himself out of what became an 11-8 Dodgers win over the San Diego Padres Saturday. It was serious enough for the team to arrange an MRI and a meeting with the team physician on Monday.

It was also serious enough that there was a somber feel in the Dodgers’ clubhouse after a breakout night for the offense and a second straight win over the team that had challenged the Dodgers for control of the division in these first few weeks.

“Not a great feeling,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said when the team TV station asked him how he felt that his No. 3 starter’s elbow is bothering him.

When the Dodgers’ new front office spent its first weeks on the job tinkering at the margins of the roster it inherited, then opened spring training with a flurry of late additions, there was some collective eye-rolling by Dodgers fans hungry for bigger-impact moves. But this was what they had in mind. They just didn’t want to be proven right so soon.

Hyun-Jin Ryu still hasn’t thrown off a mound and, while the team is hopeful he can return some time in May, it really has no idea. Now, McCarthy is injured again. He has been on the DL 10 times in his career, though the vast majority of those were because of shoulder injuries.

Brett Anderson, who has managed to stay healthy for the first few weeks, has already had Tommy John surgery and a nearly endless array of other ailments in a career thus far stunted by injuries. Sure, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are awfully good and all, but they’re only 40 percent of the puzzle.

So, all those other names that filled the fine print in the newspaper or on blogs a few months ago are becoming more and more relevant.

Mike Bolsinger, David Huff and Baker were all with other organizations when Dodgers president for baseball operations Andrew Friedman and his group were hired. So was Joe Wieland, the other Triple-A starter who figures to be in the mix if injuries persist. Carlos Frias and Zach Lee were already in the organization and, lucky for the Dodgers, all six of the starters under consideration have pitched well. Thanks largely to that pitch, Oklahoma City is off to a roaring 13-4 start, which really didn’t seem like it would feel relevant to this Dodgers’ season, but now somehow does.

If McCarthy is out for an extended period, the Dodgers almost certainly would make a push for a higher-end starting pitcher via trade, though to pry one of those loose, they’d have to dig deep in their rapidly improving farm system, not the ideal fix.

“I don’t think anybody ever feels like you have adequate depth. Everybody’s always nervous. One of the things it seems like you always talk about is starter depth, what if this, what if that,” Mattingly said. “So, hopefully it’s nothing serious and we don’t need to test that, but if it is, then we test it.”

Nobody is going to feel any sympathy for the Dodgers if these injuries keep piling up. They’re the ones who signed McCarthy and Anderson to deals that totaled $58 million. They’re the ones with all the money. They’re the ones with Kershaw and Greinke. But they’re like everybody else in the end, always preparing for the worst and always wondering if that’s even possible.