Commentary

Dodgers' lack of pitching depth evident

Monasterios throws decently in first start, but it shows L.A. has few places to turn

Updated: May 2, 2010, 3:50 AM ET
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Carlos Monasterios' first major-league start wasn't a disaster by any stretch. In fact, if the ultimate measuring stick is the result -- the Dodgers won their second game in a row on Saturday night, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1 before 40,483 at Dodger Stadium -- it was a success.

But it also underscored the fact that the Dodgers, whose starting rotation is underwhelming even when it is fully healthy, don't really have anywhere to turn when it isn't.

Monasterios is a rookie, a Rule 5 pick who barely had a taste of anything above Single-A ball before the Dodgers plucked him from the Philadelphia Phillies in December. He might grow into a serviceable major-league starter at some point. But his performance against the Pirates was less than reassuring for a team that has one starter on the disabled list and already appears to have given up on another.

Monasterios' line in the box score wasn't bad at all. He gave up one run and three hits over four innings. But of the 18 batters he faced, he threw first-pitch strikes to only four of them, and one of those was the pitcher in a bunting situation.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Monasterios
AP Photo/Gus RuelasCarlos Monasterios threw first-pitch strikes to only four of the 18 batters he faced Saturday.

Monasterios walked the first batter of the game, Akinori Iwamura, and was well on his way to walking the second, Andy LaRoche. But Iwamura was kind enough to get himself thrown out trying to steal, and then LaRoche popped up on a 3-and-2 pitch after getting ahead 3-0. The third batter, Andrew McCutchen, drove one into the left-field pavilion on a 2-0 pitch for the Pirates' only run of the game.

And so it went, just like that for pretty much the whole four innings Monasterios was in the game. He hit two batters in the second and got a fielder's-choice grounder from LaRoche to end that inning and leave the bases loaded. Monasterios didn't give up another hit, and he retired seven of the final eight batters he faced, but he had to be lifted after four because he had thrown 73 pitches on a night when he was limited to 75.

That rotation spot used to belong to knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, but it fell to Monasterios for this game because Haeger was 0-3 with a 7.45 ERA. Although he is still on the roster and allegedly available out of the bullpen, Haeger hasn't been heard from since getting torched for five runs and five hits and four walks in four innings in the nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader at New York.

That spot will come up again Thursday against Milwaukee, and manager Joe Torre was non-committal after the game as to who will start that night. He did say it would be either Monasterios or fellow rookie John Ely, who also was less than dazzling in his major-league debut Wednesday against the Mets.

There is no indication yet as to when Vicente Padilla will return from the DL, even though he will be eligible to do so Saturday. Until he does, the Dodgers are making do with what is essentially a three-man rotation: Hiroki Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and enough off-days that they can get by with dropping Monasterios, Ely or whomever in whenever they absolutely have to.

Comforting, isn't it?

Lost in the shuffle

After ending the Dodgers' recent road trip in a mini-slump -- four hits in his final 20 at-bats with six strikeouts -- Andre Ethier has gotten hot again. For the second game in a row, he hit what ultimately proved to be a game-winning home run, this time slamming a three-run blast against Pirates ace Zach Duke in the third inning that put the Dodgers ahead 3-1.

Ethier finished the night three for four with two doubles and two runs scored.

All three of those hits came off lefties Duke and Jack Taschner, giving the left-handed-hitting Ethier a .400 (10 for 25) average for the season against left-handed pitchers. That is important because last year, even as he was winning a Silver Slugger and having a breakout season, Ethier hit just .194 against lefties.

The home run, Ethier's seventh of the season, was his first against a lefty. Last year, only six of Ethier's career-high 31 homers came off lefties.

By the numbers

943 -- days between major-league victories for veteran right-hander Ramon Ortiz, who gave the Dodgers three outstanding innings behind Monasterios and was awarded the win by scorer's decision because Monasterios failed to go the required five innings for a starter. Ortiz gave up only two singles and struck out five of the 10 batters he faced. His most recent victory had come with Colorado, in a one-game playoff against San Diego for the National League wild card on Oct. 1, 2007 at Coors Field. Ortiz, who will turn 37 later this month, spent 2008 with the Orix Buffaloes of the Japanese Pacific League and 2009 with San Francisco's Triple-A Fresno affiliate.

Quote of the day

"Everybody has to pitch inside. If you can't pitch inside, you're done. You have to move the hitter's feet [back]. When he has to move his feet to hit, say it's against a left-hander, you can throw your slider and your changeup down and away. It makes a big difference if you can do that.'' -- Ortiz on his approach against the Pirates.

Looking ahead

Kuroda (2-1, 2.36) will try to give the Dodgers only their third series victory of the season, all at home, when he takes the mound against Pirates right-hander Jeff Karstens (0-0, 2.70), who pitched well against Milwaukee on Tuesday in his first start of the season after being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis. This will be the final meeting of 2010 between the Dodgers and Pirates, who have split their first six games this season.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Tony Jackson

ESPNLosAngeles.com