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Michael Grove exits start with right groin strain, further thinning Dodgers pitching depth

Grove is expected to land on the injured list

Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Dodgers pitcher Michael Grove left his start against the Cubs on Thursday night at Wrigley Field in the fourth inning with a right groin strain, further testing a thinning pitching depth chart for Los Angeles.

Grove walked Eric Hosmer and surrendered a double to Trey Mancini to open the third inning. But after the double, trainer Thomas Albert along with catcher Austin Barnes convened with Grove on the mound, and eventually manager Dave Roberts came to the mound to make a pitching change.

Phil Bickford allowed a single in relief to bring home one of the bequeathed runners, but James Outman threw out Mancini at the plate to keep the game tied at two apiece.

Grove’s first three weeks of the season have been a bumpy ride. He had strep throat during his first start, then was still dealing with the remnants of that when he allowed nine runs while recording 10 outs in Arizona on April 9. But he recovered last Saturday to keep the Cubs at bay, striking out six while allowing only one run in 5⅔ innings.

The net results for Grove — allowing 15 runs in 16 innings, with 14 strikeouts and seven walks — haven’t been great, but even with those numbers, Dodgers starting pitchers rank fourth in the majors averaging 5.53 innings per start, needing fewer innings from what has been a shaky bullpen to open the season.

With Grove’s start on Thursday, the Dodgers made it four times through the rotation only using five starting pitchers. But that will change the next time through the rotation, as Dave Roberts told reporters in Chicago after the game that Grove will be placed on the injured list.

It’s probably not a coincidence that Tony Gonsolin’s rehab start with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday lined up with Grove. But with Gonsolin only pitching three-plus innings plus some time in the bullpen afterward, it seems likely the Dodgers would want him to make at least one more rehab start before activating him.

An off day Monday means the Dodgers could eventually kick the can down the road a bit by having three pitchers starting on four days rest instead of five next week, which would delay the need for a fifth starter until Saturday, April 29. But that plan seems unlikely considering how the Dodgers usually prefer to give their starting pitchers an extra day of rest whenever possible.

If the Dodgers wanted to allow Gonsolin at least one more rehab start before activating him off the injured list, Gavin Stone is currently slated to start Saturday for Oklahoma City.

But this is getting ahead of ourselves a bit. First, we need to see the extent of Grove’s injury, and what the Dodgers might consider doing both in the interim, like possibly calling up another reliever before Grove’s spot in the rotation comes up next, whenever that is