ATLANTA -- Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi recently described the kind of pitcher he is looking for before the July 31 trade deadline. It wasn’t a terribly specific portrait.
“We’re looking for anybody that’s available that would be good enough to make our rotation,” Zaidi said. “It’s that simple.”
There’s another way of stating what the Dodgers are looking for. They have two of the best -- if not the best -- pitchers in baseball in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Brett Anderson is on perfectly solid footing. So, what they are, in fact, looking for is anyone who will give them better starts than Brandon Beachy or Mike Bolsinger.
Presuming they can land a pitcher by the deadline -- and there should be plenty of supply, most people think -- Beachy and Bolsinger are in a heated competition over the next 10 days to keep their rotation spot.
That means Beachy has little time to shake off the rust of nearly two years recovering from another arm surgery. That means Bolsinger has to prove he can pitch beyond the fifth inning consistently.
After watching Beachy give up four runs in four innings, putting the Dodgers in a hole they could never quite dig out of in a 7-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Monday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wouldn’t even commit to giving Beachy another start. Mattingly said he has frequent conversations with Zaidi and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman about ways to improve the rotation.
So far, none of those conversations have resulted in Cole Hamels walking in the clubhouse, so for now, they continue to wait and be patient. In baseball, patience usually lasts as long as a better opportunity comes along.
“It’s one of those things we’ll continue to talk about and discuss,” Mattingly said.
That might seem a bit redundant, as well as a bit harsh considering what Beachy has been through to get his body right and his psyche prepared for bouncing back from elbow reconstruction surgery twice, but he knows what he signed up for when he put his signature on a one-year, $2.75 million contract. The Dodgers aren’t a rebuilding team that can afford to give a recovering pitcher all the time he needs, as the Philadelphia Phillies can with ex-Dodger Chad Billingsley, say. The Dodgers aren’t just days away from the trade deadline, they’re days away from a pennant race.
Realistically speaking, the Dodgers viewed Beachy as more of a 2016 project than a 2015 rotation staple, which is why they insisted on a club option for next season. But when things started going well for him in his rehab and when the back of their rotation started to crumble, they decided to give him a try. What did they have to lose? It’s hard to say just yet, but so far they haven’t had a lot to gain.
Two starts in, Beachy is 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA and he has forced the bullpen to pitch 10 innings.
He used words like “frustrated” and “unacceptable” to describe his two starts since coming back, saying he’s happy with his stuff, but frustrated with his execution. Mattingly said the team thinks Beachy’s stuff -- he has a fastball that touches 91 mph and a couple of good breaking pitches -- is going to play over time, but how much time can they afford to give him this season as he gets used to his rebuilt arm?
Not even he knows for sure.
“I try not to think about that as much as I can. That’s obviously out there,” Beachy said. “I have to get outs -- I understand that. But that’s not up to me, so all I can do, if I’m fortunate enough that I get the ball, is to get better and I plan to do that.”