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Dodgers to test pitching depth after Brett Anderson injury

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PHOENIX -- Brett Anderson's back injury leaves a hole in the Dodgers starting rotation, and one that tests their notable depth. The club will look internally to help plug the gap, but has no internal regrets about bringing back the oft-injured Anderson in the first place.

Anderson underwent successful surgery to repair a disc in his back on Thursday, the same disc that required surgery in August 2014.

Even though Anderson averaged just 52 innings per year before pitching a career high 180⅓ frames in 2015, believe it or not the chances of this back surgery being needed again were surprisingly low.

"Going through the diagnosis yesterday, we were told the chances of recurrence of something like this was relatively low, around 10 percent of the time," general manager Farhan Zaidi said. "It was a case of bad luck."

Whatever it was, the Dodgers have to get those starts from somebody. The early favorites are likely Mike Bolsinger, Brandon Beachy and Zach Lee, with highly-touted prospects Jose De Leon and Julio Urias less likely but at least in the mix.

"We just have to be open to anything. It provides opportunity for a broader range of guys in camp. There is more at stake for a lot of guys, because we do have potential openings in the rotation," Zaidi said. "I'm sure it will provide some extra motivation for a lot of the guys in camp and hoping for an opportunity."

"Every time you have injuries, you just have to have one more guy pitch above expectations," Clayton Kershaw said.

Whether one person fills in the gap or multiple pitchers do, the likely solutions are already in-house for the Dodgers.

"It's always tough to acquire pitching," Zaidi said. "The early part of spring in particular is when teams are taking stock of what they have and not necessarily looking outward to trade from surplus or anything like that. But we feel good about our internal options, and it's going to create some opportunities.

"You never want to have to tap into that depth this early, but this is the benefit of having that sort of depth."

There is also the matter of Hyun-jin Ryu, who was shut down for a few days after experiencing discomfort in his shoulder after throwing a bullpen session. As of now there is no scheduled date for him to return to the mound.

Zaidi said Ryu's estimate of a May return was plausible but noted that at this point and at this relatively early stage of Ryu building up arm strength even that is unknown.

"There isn't a strict timetable or exact target date. He's coming off pretty serious surgery. We gave him a little bit of a rest, and some of that is built into the schedule," Zaidi explained. "It's hard to really say what a realistic timetable is for his first [real] game until he's actually in a game."

Anderson returned to the Dodgers by accepting the club's qualifying offer of one year, $15.8 million, an offer made partly with the chance of getting a compensatory draft pick had Anderson declined then signed elsewhere.

But with most of Anderson's season now wiped out — Zaidi did say he was hopeful Anderson would pitch "at some point this season" — Zaidi insisted there was no buyer's remorse in making the qualifying offer to Anderson.

He was healthy last year and the risk of recurrence was very low. Considering how free agent pitching price went over the course of the offseason, this was looking like a pretty good bargain. This was just an unfortunate thing to happen," Zaidi said. "It definitely hurts us."

We are about to find out just how much.