Dodgers Need to Fill Roster with Best Players

First, I completely agree with Eric's position that the blame for the loss last night needs to go squarely on the starting pitcher. Chad Billingsley was given 5 runs of support, but was unable to last 6 innings and surrendered 6 runs in the process.  Through two turns in the rotation, the Dodgers top 3 starters (if the order they pitched is an indicator of such things) in Billingsley, Vicente Padilla, and Clayton Kershaw have failed so far to pitch 6 innings.  Needless to say, having 3 of the 5 starting pitchers unable to pitch deep into games all season would certainly be a major issue which couldn't be overcome no matter how strong the bullpen. 

Two things though. First, I certainly don't think the trend of being completely unable to pitch into the 7th inning will remain a constant for all three pitchers.  It's not as though Billingsley and Kershaw haven't been here before.  Ignoring last season for a moment, 2008 saw Billinsgley struggle mightily early in the season, posting an ERA of 5.20 and recording a 1-4 record in April of 2008.  Billingsley would be solid the remainder of the season.  The same is true of Kershaw.   Last April, Kershaw was 0-2 with an ERA of 7.29, before ultimately rebounding to post a 2.79 ERA for the season.  It might look a bit more grim with Chad, since he finished last season struggling and now appears to be struggling again, but that leads me to my second point.  Kershaw, Padilla and Billingsley are the best we've got.  For better or worse, the Dodgers are married to these three pitchers, and as fans we're going to have to hope that they turn it around and perform well enough to keep the Dodgers in contention this season. 

The bullpen is a different story.  As Eric mentioned, a strong case could be made that three of the Dodger bullpen pieces shouldn't even be in the major leagues.  With 3 of your 5 starting pitchers struggling early in the season, I'm going to go out an a limb and say that perhaps the team should populate its bullpen with the best pitchers possible.  James McDonald proved in 2009 that he can be effective out of the bullpen in the major leagues, posting an impressive 2.72 ERA in 41 appearances last season as a reliever. Brent Leach also made an apperance last season, and the lefty has the tools to certainly perform as a LOOGY in the Dodgers bullpen (especially considering that the only other lefty in the Dodger pen currently is George Sherrill who hopefully will not be used as a LOOGY.)  Both Scott Elbert and Travis Schlichting have shown enough in the minor league in prior years to warrant callups in the past (Schlichting was impressive last night striking out 4 batters in 3 hitless innings of relief.)  The Dodgers also have the option to call up Josh Lindblom, who has struggled since being converted to a starting pitcher late in spring traning, but profiles better as a reliever anyway.

The Dodgers have options in the bullpen, and with the Dodgers pitchers struggling it would have been swell if the Dodger bullpen could have salvaged a few of these games so far.  A few people on this board have been very vocal about the foolishness of making roster decisions based on fears of losing borderline major league pitchers who don't have options (or have an out in their contract allowing them to be free agents if they choose.)  The Dodgers have now started 3-5 and the club should look to bring in bullpen help immediately.  Hopefully the Dodger starters are just working out early season issues. If so, by adding strength to the bullpen in the time period before Ronald Belisario and Hong-Chih Kuo return the team might be able to salvage games like last night when their starter lets the team down.  If the starters don't turn it around, the prospect for the season looks bad indeed, however all I'm actually advocating here is putting the Dodgers best bullpen options in the bullpen. It's not a horrible down-side scenario. 

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