The Dodgers' vaunted pitching depth could be put to the test in the coming days, with most of the short-term ramifications stemming from Chris Capuano straining his left calf in Tuesday's 9-2 loss to the Padres at Dodger Stadium.
Capuano will have an MRI on his left calf on Thursday to determine the severity of the strain, though Capuano doesn't think it is anything serious. He said it was similar to a calf injury he suffered with the Brewers "five or six years ago" that caused him to miss a week.
"It's a strain. It's not a full tear or anything like that. We'll take a look on Thursday to see what grade it is," Capuano said. "Hopefully the MRI will show it's not a very severe strain."
Capuano suffered the strain while covering first base to end the second inning. He tried to continue pitching into the third, but after a quick walk to Jesus Guzman he was removed from the game.
"I came in after the inning and I taped it up real tight, and tried to brace that ankle so it took pressure off the calf. I felt like I could sit back on it and push off. But the walk to Guzman there it was pretty obvious I wasn't driving off that leg the way I needed to," Capuano said. "I wanted to stay out there to try to give us some innings because I knew we needed innings. But I feel like they made the right decision. I was hurting."
Manager Don Mattingly said he didn't want to take any chances with Capuano.
"Rick (Honeycutt, pitching coach) was basically saying he's not making one good throw out of those first four, and he still wanted to try to pitch. It's still early, 14 games in," Mattingly said. "I can't allow a guy who has had a couple of Tommy John surgeries to go out there and try to pitch on a leg where he can't use everything, can't use his whole body. You can't do that to a guy."
The injury cut short Capuano's first start of the year, one that began with an arduous four-run first inning.
"It was not the way I saw it in my head. The first inning was tough. I wasn't hitting my spots very well, but it seemed like every little ball they hit had eyes and found holes. Nothing really went our way in the first inning, and that was frustrating," Capuano said. "To have a stupid little injury like this happen, it just pushes you over the edge. It's frustrating."
With a pair of off days coming up, the Dodgers do have the luxury of time in waiting for MRI results on Capuano.
"The one positive is that we don't need that fifth starter again until the 24th, with the off days coming up," Mattingly said.
If the Dodgers wanted, they could wait even longer to use the fifth starter, until Apr. 27, but Mattingly likes whenever possible to use off days to give an extra day of rest to his starters.
Even if healthy, there is no guarantee Capuano will be the fifth starter whenever it's needed. His competition is Ted Lilly, who allowed four runs (three earned runs) in five innings for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga in his third minor league rehabilitation start. Lilly threw 81 pitches, struck out five, and walked one.
Off day for Kemp?
Matt Kemp went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Tuesday, and Mattingly said he would consider giving his center fielder a day off Wednesday after his .185/.224/.259 with no home runs in 14 games. Kemp was removed in a double switch to start the seventh inning of Tuesday's blowout.
"Matt's pressing pretty good," Mattingly said. "Tonight he seemed pretty frustrated."
The Dodgers try to stave off a San Diego sweep on Wednesday night, and they send their stopper to the hill in Clayton Kershaw, who is one strikeout shy of 1,000 in his career. Right-hander Tyson Ross gets the call for the Padres in what is already a sell-out for the Dodgers, on Hello Kitty fleece blanket night.