LOS ANGELES – There’s still plenty of time to sort these things out, but at some point in the next couple of weeks, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly will have to decide on his pitching rotation for the playoffs.
He’s not prepared to do that now, not with 17 games left in the regular season and the National League West title still not secured. But when he is, he undoubtedly will have a difficult time deciding on his No. 3 starter.
Hyun-Jin Ryu or Ricky Nolasco?
“We haven’t got there yet,” Mattingly said Wednesday night. “There’s no reason to talk about any of that.”
Not now, but maybe soon. Ryu worked his way through six strenuous innings in the Dodgers’ 4-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, giving up 10 hits and three runs. He allowed three runs in the first two innings and put men on base in every inning but the third, but as Mattingly said, it was a typical Ryu performance.
“He was OK,” he said. “He kind of did what Hyun-Jin does. He gives up a couple (of runs) early, but he hangs in there and gives us a chance to get back in the game. For not pitching in 10 days I thought he was fairly sharp.”
Ryu hadn’t pitched since Aug. 30 after encountering back stiffness in his last start. He didn’t blame his slow start Wednesday on the injury, insisting it wasn’t an issue, and said he was simply the victim of a few mistakes.
“The back wasn’t a problem,” he said through a translator. “If there is one good takeaway from today’s game, it’s that the injury is gone.”
Even so, Ryu’s numbers haven’t looked good over his past four starts. He is 1-3 in that span and has yielded 29 hits and 11 earned runs in 24 2/3 innings, a 4.01 ERA.
Current No. 4 starter Nolasco, acquired in a July trade from Miami, has been far more impressive, going 7-0 since Aug. 1 with a 1.59 ERA. At Dodger Stadium, Nolasco has won four of five decisions and given up just five earned runs in 34 innings.
Mattingly will have to choose someone to start behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke when the playoffs open, and it doesn’t mean Ryu will be sent to the bullpen if Nolasco starts. But a third starter will be critical in a shortened best-of-five first-round series.
Ryu, asked if he felt pressure to pitch well or risk losing his spot, said, “Absolutely no pressure whatsoever. I believe we as players try our best and let the pieces fall as they may. We’re just trying to win as a team.”
The Dodgers will have to put off any celebrations for a few more days. Their magic number to win the West remained at six, meaning the soonest they can clinch the division is Sunday in the final game of their home stand.
Mattingly had an opportunity to use rookie left-hander Onelki Garcia, who was called up earlier in the day from the minors and made his major-league debut in the ninth inning.
But it was brief. He walked pinch-hitter Adam Eaton on four pitches and was pulled for right-hander Peter Moylan.
Garcia’s reaction when Mattingly came to get him: “Wow.”
“I don’t know if he knew he had one hitter,” Mattingly said. “I knew he had one hitter before I put him in. I guess I had the benefit of knowing where I was going with that.
“I felt bad, honestly, having to go get him, but we’re in a game that’s 4-1. It was part of what we do with those guys. It’s getting him ready for how we’ll use him.”
The Dodgers have high hopes for Garcia, a third-round draft pick in 2012. He began the season at Double-A Chattanooga before being promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque on Aug. 11. He was a combined 2-4 with a 2.90 ERA in 35 games, six of them starts.
But Garcia is the future. Right now, the Dodgers are fixated on their present.
They’re getting closer, but any celebrations are still on hold.