Hyun-jin Ryu toenail issues have ripple effect on Dodgers rotation

Matt King

When the southpaw's next start will be made isn't yet known, awaiting diagnosis of a cracked nail on his right big toe.

LOS ANGELES -- Major league ERA leader Hyun-jin Ryu visited a podiatrist on Tuesday to determine the severity of his right toenail injury, which affects the rest of the Dodgers rotation as they head into the season.

Ryu split open the nail on his right big toe in the third inning Sunday (Saturday night in Los Angeles) when he pulled up at third base on a double by Dee Gordon. Ryu remained in the game to pitch three more innings, and ended with five scoreless frames in the game, but the injury may prevent him from starting again this week.

"He's going to see the doctor today with his toenail, to see if he'll be able to land on that and use it the way he needs to," manager Don Mattingly said earlier Tuesday. "We'll have a little bit better idea moving forward of what he's going to be able or not be able to do, and that will help us with the planning of our pitching this weekend."

Where Ryu slots into the rotation hasn't been announced, but it seems clear where he might pitch just by process of elimination.

Zack Greinke, who last pitched Saturday in Arizona, will start the opener against the Angels on Thursday at Dodger Stadium. Dan Haren pitched Monday in Arizona, and would line up on regular rest to start again on Saturday against the Angels in Anaheim. Clayton Kershaw will almost certainly start the domestic regular season opener on Sunday night in San Diego.

That leaves Friday for Ryu, which could presumably also lead him to starting the third and final game of the series against the Padres, on Wednesday, April 2.

Mattingly was hesitant to name any planned starting pitchers on Tuesday, not even Kershaw in the San Diego opener, mostly because Ryu's status was unknown.

If Ryu is out for the short term, like a week, one scenario could have Haren pitch a shortened tune-up outing on Friday, on short rest, so Haren could start the finale in San Diego on regular rest, with Ryu getting a few extra days before possibly starting the home opener on April 4.

A more likely scenario might simply be Paul Maholm simply slotting in for Ryu, both on Friday against the Angels and on Wednesday against the Padres. Maholm pitched in relief on Sunday but said he plans to throw the equivalent of a long bullpen session on Wednesday, still preparing to be ready as a starter just in case.

The Dodgers on Wednesday night are going to play a glorified intrasquad game, though it will mostly consist of batters getting extra at-bats against pitchers who need innings. Josh Beckett, who said his thumb has improved to the point where he was able to throw a few curves in his last outing in Arizona, is one of the scheduled pitchers in the intrasquad game on Wednesday.

But before the intrasquad game on Wednesday night will come the news on Ryu, which will set the dominoes in motion for the Dodgers rotation for the immediate future.

"We're up in the air at this point," Mattingly said.

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