Has Don Mattingly crossed the Rubicon?

The days of patience, it seems, are over.

In pregame comments made to reporters at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly made it clear changes -- pretty big ones -- could be coming. He hinted the team has kicked around the idea of recalling top outfield prospects Yasiel Puig or Joc Pederson to provide a spark for his reeling team.

He benched Andre Ethier against a right-handed pitcher, saying it was about fielding his most-competitive team.

But easily his most dramatic comments concerned the mental makeup of his team, which it is increasingly clear is a concern for the third-year manager. Mattingly apparently was asked to compare the qualities of last year's team, which was 30-14 at this point with a band of other teams' castoffs (and a torrid start by Matt Kemp) and this year's team, which is 18-26 despite entering the season with a league-record payroll.

"There has to be a mixture of competitiveness," Mattingly said. "It's not 'Let's put an All-Star team together and the All-Star team wins.' It's finding that balance of a team that has a little bit of grit and will fight you and also having talent to go with it."

If you've watched this team over these frustrating first seven weeks, you probably find yourself agreeing with Mattingly, even if you think he's the wrong man for the job. The Dodgers aren't batting .222 with runners in scoring position and .139 with the bases loaded because they've forgotten how to hit or because they're not trying. They're struggling, at least from my perspective, because they have a flawed roster and they're not handling the pressure.

Teams in the Dodgers' position have to explore all reversible options before they begin to ponder permanent ones. Once you fire a manager or other team leader or trade one of your core guys, there's no going back on that decision. But, really, what kind of options are available? To use Puig -- who, by all accounts, is too raw for this level -- or Pederson -- who hasn't proven he could handle it -- as a short-term spark and maybe more is a fine notion. But where do you play them?

Unless the Dodgers are thinking of practically giving Ethier away (and guys slugging .405 with $79 million left on their contract aren't exactly in furious demand), it seems they're stuck with who they have. They're stuck with who they are.

That leads to the next question: If Mattingly feels this way about his team, is there any other way to solve that problem aside from a divorce? The Dodgers aren't going to be able to swap any of their players for a tough guy like Kirk Gibson at this point (he's too busy managing a team that's seven games ahead of them), but they could change one manager.

It might not be a rational move, but it might be the only move left to them right now.

One gets the impression Mattingly's comments today were just the first rumblings of some major shifts to come.