The Dodgers are considering starting Chris Capuano on three days rest on Sunday in the series finale against the Padres, and while not an attractive option it might be the lesser of evils given the other options.
"After the sixth inning the other day, I said we'd need someone Sunday and that was also a factor coming out after the sixth inning," Capuano said on Friday, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "I felt so good I was looking to go back out [for the seventh inning], but I also understood this was in the back of my mind."
Capuano was magnificent on Wednesday against the Yankees, pitching six scoreless innings on 84 pitches in his first game back off the disabled list after missing three weeks with a strained lat. The rain in New York on Tuesday wreaked havoc with the Dodgers' rotation as it pushed Hyun-jin Ryu, who was penciled in to start Sunday, back one day to Wednesday during a doubleheader with the Yankees.
As much as we might like to see Zach Lee, who at 21 years old is 5-5 with a 3.23 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 20 walks in Double-A Chattanooga, that was never more than a pipe dream. Lee pitched Wednesday anyway, so he was never considered an option for Sunday as it would have been on short rest. It makes sense, as the Dodgers likely won't rush Lee; when they bring him up, it will probably be for good.
Gurnick also reported that manager Don Mattingly said Sunday's starter, if not Capuano, will come from Triple-A. That means a pair of Matts, Matt Magill or Matt Palmer.
Magill, we know. He is on the 40-man roster, which is appealing for a spot start since he can just be optioned back to Albuquerque after the start and no corresponding move would be needed just for one start. What is unappealing though are Magill's last two starts, which include 15 walks, 14 runs and five home runs in just 9⅔ innings. Magill has 52 walks in 59⅔ innings between the majors and minors this season.
Magill pitched on Wednesday and would technically also be on three days rest, but he was pulled after just two innings and 42 pitches in an effort to potentially use him on Sunday if needed.
Palmer, 34, is 3-3 with a 4.26 ERA in 11 starts with the Isotopes this season, with 54 strikeouts and 24 walks in 57 innings. Palmer, who has totaled 185⅓ innings over parts of each of the last five seasons with the Giants, Angels and Padres, was signed to a minor league contract by the Dodgers in December. He had his spring training derailed by surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, an injury that was discovered while walking after playing catch.
Palmer started on Tuesday for Albuquerque and allowed one run in seven innings, his fifth straight start allowing three or fewer runs. He would be on regular rest on Sunday, but would also need a corresponding roster move (either Josh Beckett or Shawn Tolleson transferred to the 60-day disabled list) to be added to the 40-man roster.
Capuano has pitched just once on three days rest in his career, and it was back in 2005 with the Brewers. On Oct. 2 Capuano allowed three runs on seven hits, including two home runs, in 5⅓ innings in a loss to the Pirates.
The last Dodgers pitcher to start on three days rest was Chad Billingsley, who pitched 6⅔ scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Giants on July 31, 2010. Since the start of 2008, the Dodgers have had someone start on three days rest 10 times, and the club is 3-7 in those games. The starters in those games have a 6.48 ERA and have averaged 4.17 innings per start. Take out the infamous Charlie Haeger five-batter, no-out game and the numbers improve to a 5.40 ERA and 4.63 innings per start, but still not good.
It's not a perfect look, since six of the 10 starts came directly after a short relief appearance, but the point is starting on three days rest isn't something that is done very often anymore. But with a rested bullpen — the seven relievers on the roster have combined for seven innings and 10 appearances in the last five days, and Kenley Jansen hasn't pitched in a week — giving the ball to Capuano on three days rest just might be their best option.
UPDATE: The Dodgers announced before Saturday's game that Capuano will in fact start on Sunday.