PHOENIX — Then-Dodgers Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw finished 2-3 in the National League Cy Young Award race last season and a case could be — and was — made that either could have won the award.
But neither ace will be on the mound when the Diamondbacks and Dodgers return to NL West play after the All-Star break on Friday in the opener of a three-game series at Chase Field.
Greinke has not played catch since suffering a strained left oblique after going two innings in June 28 start against Philadelphia, and Kershaw has not pitched since June 26 because of a herniated disk in his lower back.
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In Greinke's absence, the Diamondbacks will send Patrick Corbin, Archie Bradley and Robbie Ray to the mound in the series. The Dodgers will counter with Bud Norris, Brandon McCarthy and Kenta Maeda.
Norris will make his second start for the Dodgers since being acquired from Atlanta immediately after Kershaw was placed on the disabled list, and McCarthy will make his third start since missing 14 months after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The other big-name starter missing from the Arizona rotation is right-hander Shelby Miller, who was optioned to Triple-A Reno when the team gathered for a Thursday workout.
The move adds fuel to those who said the Diamondbacks gave up too much — Ender Inciarte and minor leaguers Aaron Blair and Dansby Swanson — to get Miller at the winter meetings, but the Diamondbacks believe it is the right move. Miller was 2-7 and his 7.14 ERA was the highest among NL pitchers with at least 12 starts. His WHIP is 1.75 in 14 starts.
“To his admission, he was not right here,” Arizona manager Chip Hale said. “His stuff was good enough to win at times. He just couldn't put it together. We're letting him take a deep breath and go down there and pitch.”
Miller, 25, was 11th in the NL in ERA and tied for 10th in quality starts last season in Atlanta. He was seen as a complement to Greinke to give the Diamondbacks a 1-2 punch to rival any in the NL West.
Miller allowed one run or fewer in 15 of his 33 starts a year ago, and his 6-17 record considered a reflection of the 2.54 runs of support he received.
But he gave up 10 runs and five homers in his first two starts this season and never seemed to recover, at one point tweaking his mechanics that caused him to brush his pitching hand on the mound after his delivery.
“I'm surprised I stayed up here this long,” Miller said candidly. “Obviously, I haven't been helping in the way I can. Whatever it takes to get back up here. Figure some things out. There is still a lot of season left.”
Arizona will recall left-hander Edwin Escobar to pitch out of the bullpen on Friday, Hale said, and will promote right-hander Zack Godley for Tuesday's start against Toronto.
Kershaw could return as early as Thursday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts seemed to indicate. There is no timetable for Greinke, who might pitch one or two simulated games and might not need a rehab start before returning, Hale said.