LOS ANGELES -- One of the hallmarks for the Dodgers all season has been starting pitching, but the back end of the rotation is becoming more and more of a glaring sore spot. On Sunday, Josh Beckett lasted just four innings in a loss to the Cubs, continuing a bad trend for the Dodgers.
"It was still a little rough. He was okay, a little bit, but he threw a lot of pitches to get through innings," said manager Don Mattingly. "Really since he's come off the DL he hasn't been okay."
Since returning from the disabled list Beckett has allowed 11 runs on 21 hits in 12 innings, with seven walks and 12 strikeouts. But more importantly he has failed to last at least five innings in any of his three starts, with his longest outing 4⅓ innings and 105 pitches on July 29.
Sunday had a promising start for Beckett, who recorded his first five outs by strikeout, but also allowed two doubles and a run in the first inning. The 24 pitches in the opening frame set a tone for the rest of the day for Beckett.
Beckett needed 85 pitches to record 12 outs on Sunday, then threw nine more pitches to three batters in the fifth, giving up two runs.
"I felt good today, the results were just shitty," Beckett said. "I didn't throw enough strikes, and the strikes I did throw weren't good enough."
Beckett has been dealing with more than just the hip impingement that sent him to the disabled list. He said the hip was fine on Sunday, but all season he has been dealing with various aches and pains that come with 14 years and 2,051 innings on the odometer.
"I think in between starts are a battle for Josh," Mattingly said. "That's just the way it is, and I don't think that's going to change."
Beckett said it is a challenge to push himself to throw a bullpen session on his throw day, typically two days after a start. He did throw a bullpen session before Sunday's start, but did not throw one before his previous two starts.
"Every time I step on that mound, it's a battle," Beckett said.
But health permitting, Beckett is scheduled to make his next scheduled start, on Friday in Milwaukee, "unless he came in tomorrow and couldn't walk," Mattingly said, only half-joking.
Also remaining in the rotation is Dan Haren, 0-5 with a 10.03 ERA in his last five outings (and a 5.86 ERA over his last 15 starts). Mattingly reiterated on Sunday that Haren, who threw a bullpen session on Sunday, will start on Wednesday against the Angels in Anaheim.
The Dodgers didn't make a move to acquire pitching by Thursday's non-waiver trade deadline, and will no doubt be active trying to procure pitchers through the waiver process in August.
"I'm sure it's up for discussion with Ned [Colletti, general manager] and all those guys, where we always try to get better," Mattingly said. "From my standpoint and the coaches' standpoint you think guys are going to get better and improve. You can't just make changes all the time.
The Dodgers' minor league options aren't so appealing. Both Red Patterson and Chris Reed, arguably two of the three or four most likely minor league pitchers in the organization to get promoted, made their scheduled starts on Sunday for Triple-A Albuquerque and Double-A Chattanooga, respectively, taking them out of play for Wednesday (not that they were ever really in play).
Zach Lee, scheduled to pitch for the Isotopes on Thursday (he was pushed back from Tuesday to Thursday conveniently after Haren's clunker on Friday), is another option. But not one likely to happen this week, at least. One reason is that it may take Lee and other minor leaguers not on the 40-man roster and thus not subject to waivers in trade for the Dodgers to make the improvements they need. Calling Lee up removes him as a potential trade chip.
Mattingly was asked if moving Beckett or Haren to the bullpen was an option.
"It sounds great, but you still have to have a starter. It's not spring training where you can have 12-15 guys," Mattingly said. "You have to have a starter, and if you bring a guy from the minor leagues you have to use a roster spot."
Owners of the best record in the National League, panic is not the right word to use for the Dodgers. But with 14 days left on their stretch of 20 games in 20 days, the Dodgers are nearing a crisis point with their pitching staff. The next week will be crucial in getting things turned around.
Maholm decision soon
Dodgers pitcher Paul Maholm said on Sunday that he would meet with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Tuesday to discuss the options for the torn ACL in his right knee. Despite his season being over, Maholm was in good spirits, even joking about the play covering first that injured his knee.
"It was just an unathletic guy trying to make an athletic play," Maholm quipped.
The Dodgers open up a four-game home-and-home series against the Angels on Monday night at Dodger Stadium, with All-Star a Zack Greinke starting the opener. Garrett Richards, who should have been an All-Star, starts for the Halos.