Now that Eric Milton has had season-ending back surgery, the Dodgers temporarily have a hole at the very end of their starting rotation. No, this is not a plea to acquire Roy Halladay -- although I would do it in a heartbeat if James McDonald was the only player from the major league roster traded -- but rather a look at just what exactly the Dodgers are replacing.
To date, the Dodgers' "fifth starters" have consisted of Eric Stults, Jeff Weaver, Milton, and McDonald. Those four pitchers have made a combined 23 starts this season. They have averaged only 4.58 innings per start, and have put up a 4.78 ERA and 1.585 WHIP. In those 23 starts, the starter pitched six innings or longer only once (the Eric Stults shutout of the Giants in May). So its not like this is some huge hole the Dodgers have to fill.
Ordinarily, I would want James McDonald to reclaim his starting spot, but for now let him continue to deliver from the bullpen, especially in light of recent injuries to Ronald Belisario and Jonathan Broxton.
Its time for the Dodgers to bring up Jason Schmidt. He has been rehabbing in Albuquerque since June 21, and in five starts he has put up a 3.94 ERA and 1.247 WHIP with the Isotopes. More importantly, he has been healthy enough to pitch every five days or so, which is a huge leap forward in Schmidt's comeback trail. Per the collective bargaining agreement, a rehabilitation assignment for a pitcher can last no more than 30 days, so the decision date is July 20. Barring another setback, that is the last day Schmidt can pitch on his rehabilitation assignment. That is also the next date the Dodgers will need a fifth starter, Monday night at home against the Reds.
We all know the story on Schmidt. He was damaged goods when he signed with the Dodgers, and for $47 million the Dodgers have received all of one win in almost three years. But Schmidt is no Andruw Jones. He has worked hard in his rehabilitation, when he just as easily could have thrown in the towel and collected his massive paychecks. I interviewed Schmidt after one of his rehab starts in San Bernardino earlier in the season, and what I saw was a driven athlete trying his hardest to get back to the majors, to help the club that gave him such a large contract.
Schmidt very well may fail in his comeback. In fact, its quite likely he will. But, given what the Dodgers have already thrown out there this season from the fifth starter spot, it can't hurt to give Schmidt a try. He's earned it.