Charlie Haeger: Rotation Savior?

The ripple effect of Vicente Padilla's injury has the potential to throw the Dodger pitching rotation into disarray.  That is, unless Charlie Haeger and his magic knuckleball have anything to say about it.

Unless they plan to start in-house candidates Carlos Monasterios or Ramon Ortiz, the Dodgers need to promote a minor league pitcher to fill in for Padilla.  It appears that pitcher will be John Ely, who was scratched from his start today for Triple A Albuquerque.  Padilla's spot in the rotation was scheduled to be Tuesday, but Haeger is pitching in the second game tomorrow on three days rest. 

That move allows the Dodgers to postpone calling up someone from the minor leagues until Wednesday, which means Jon Link gets to stay for at least the two games tomorrow.  This also means the Dodgers head into tomorrow's doubleheader with a well-rested, eight-man bullpen; only Ramon Troncoso will have pitched more than once in four days.

Haeger was willing to pitch both games tomorrow, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, and given Haeger's willingness to pitch whenever, wherever, it's hard to tell whether or not he was joking.  However, given the upcoming schedule (hat tip to BHSportsGuy), Haeger might have to shoulder a little more of the burden anyway:

Date Opp Starter
Tue @NYM x2 Kuroda, Haeger
Wed @NYM Ely
Thu Pit Kershaw
Fri Pit Billingsley
Sat Pit Haeger (3 days)
Sun Pit Kuroda
May 3 off
May 4 Mil Kershaw
May 5 Mil Billingsley
May 6 Mil Haeger
May 7 Col Kuroda
May 8 Col Ely / Padilla

Pushing the fill-in start to Wednesday means Padilla's spot in the rotation can be skipped on next Monday's off day, meaning potentially only one start needed from Ely, or whomever will be pitching Wednesday in New York.  This is assuming Padilla is healthy enough to pitch on May 8, the first day he is eligible to be activated from the disabled list.  But reading the quotes from Padilla, it doesn't sound like he'll be ready to pitch anytime soon.  From Tony Jackson of ESPN LA:

"In the past, I have had something similar, but I was able to throw with it in the past,'' Padilla said, with Kenji Nimura translating. "In spring training, I had the same thing, but I was able to throw through the pain. This time, I can't even throw, so it's a little bit more serious. I don't know if it's in the tendon or the muscle, so I don't know what to expect.''

No matter when Padilla comes back, the Dodgers still have a hole in their rotation this Saturday.  I don't know if they would call up another minor leaguer to pitch Saturday, especially when those on the 40-man roster -- Scott Elbert or James McDonald -- haven't pitched well in Triple A.  They would already have to make one corresponding roster move to make room on the 40-man for Wednesday's starter, whether it is Ely, Josh Towers, or Gurnick favorite Jesus Castillo (in Double A).  They do have the option of moving one or both of Brad Ausmus and Cory Wade to the 60-day disabled list, so the room is there if they need it.

However, having the indefatigable Haeger pitch on Saturday, again on three days rest, would help stabilize the rotation without the need of an extra roster move.  Plus, it would add to the allure and wonder of the knuckleball.  Sure, it's not quite Wilbur Wood starting both games of a doubleheader, but these days hardly anybody starts on three days rest, especially not twice in a row.  In fact, the only Dodger in the last 21 years to pitch two consecutive starts on three or fewer days rest was fellow knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, who last turned the trick in July 1993:

Date Opp Rest IP H R ER BB K
7/8/93 Mets 3 6 5 3 3 2 5
7/11/93 Mets 2 5 5 1 1 1 1

That's right, Tom Candiotti pitched two games in the same (five-game) series against the Mets.  Starting tomorrow, also in New York against the Mets, Charlie Haeger can keep alive the legend of the knuckleball.

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