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Brandon McCarthy's early exit leaves hole in Dodgers' rotation

LOS ANGELES -- About four months ago critics panned the Los Angeles Dodgers' shiny new front office for playing with fire when they signed Brandon McCarthy to a four-year, $48 million contract in the offseason.

Four starts into the deal, those same critics can gloat.

McCarthy, a 31-year-old right-hander who has missed a total of 526 team games over his eight previous seasons, is done for the season after he was diagnosed with a ulnar collateral ligament tear in his right elbow Monday.

Tommy John surgery is typically required to repair the injury, taking anywhere from 12 to 15 months of rehab. While McCarthy said he is leaning toward that option, he has yet to make a decision. Although it sounds like that could just be a matter of time as he is hoping for a return before next year's All-Star break.

Left-handed reliever Adam Liberatore was recalled from Oklahoma City to replace McCarthy on the roster.

"It certainly looks one direction," McCarthy said about the likelihood of Tommy John surgery. "I don't want to be one of the guys who plays this [rehab] out for a few months only to kind of waste everybody's time. This is going to be one where if we need to get it done we'll get it done soon."

When asked about the severity of the tear, McCarthy quipped, "Well done."

It did not seem like that initially, though. McCarthy, who was 3-0 this season, but with an inflated 5.87 ERA and a major league-leading nine home runs allowed, said the original diagnosis was not nearly as bad. But upon further review of his MRI, the tear was discovered.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers' front office, led by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, was deciding how to handle their roster in the wake of McCarthy's season-ending injury. For now, the Dodgers will go with Scott Baker as the Friday or Saturday starter against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Beyond that, the club will look internally for rotation options. That could mean another pitcher from Triple-A Oklahoma City in the short term. Baker, Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, Zack Lee and Joe Wieland are all possibilities. One of the organization's top prospects, 18-year-old lefty Julio Urias, is not an option, Friedman said.

A trade later in the season could be an option as the team will be "open-minded" when exploring that possibility. In that light, Friedman would not label any young player as "untouchable," saying context also has to be considered, among other things, in any trade.

"Historically, April [and] May trades are pretty uncommon," Friedman said. "For the most part we are going to look inside, and we've got a number of really interesting candidates.

"We'll take some time and focus internally right now. Then we'll wake up in June having scouted other organizations throughout the next four to six weeks and figure out where to go from there."

Friedman's other concern is within the bullpen. He does not know how many innings any of the replacement options can give the club, so he said the team will closely manage the relievers to make sure none of them are being overused to cover the leftover innings.

McCarthy had only one 30-plus-start season, in 2014, when the Dodgers signed him in December. But most of the arm-related trouble he had was with his shoulder, and examinations done by the Dodgers showed McCarthy was healthy, including his shoulder and UCL.

"Brandon has obviously had a little bit of an injury issue, but nothing related to the elbow," Friedman said. "I guess it just goes to show that this is what happens in this game with pitchers. You have to be prepared for it. That's why we talk so much about depth. You can never have enough."