LOS ANGELES -- As it turns out, among the myriad issues the Dodgers are dealing with, near the top of that list is the fact that veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez may not be healthy enough to play in the postseason.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said as much on Wednesday night during his chat with the media before the season finale against the D-backs in the toasty third-base dugout at Dodger Stadium.
Gonzalez returned from a herniated disk in his lower back on Aug. 18 and has hit .184 (9-for-49) since then with a homer and five RBIs. He's also looked slow and ponderous fielding his position.
"That's a possibility," Roberts said about the 35-year-old A-Gon missing the playoffs. "I know this has been a frustrating season for him because he's a player who's posted for so many years and now his body is not letting him do what he wants to do.
"I think right now where we're at is, his back is a day-to-day thing. There are certain days when his back feels good and there are other days when he can't get around and move well. I can't say, or Adrian can't say, where we're going to be at the end of the month."
This tells you all you need to know: Gonzalez started at first base in Tuesday night's 3-1 loss to the D-backs. And when his turn came to hit with two out and no one on in the bottom of the 10th, Roberts sent out Corey Seager to pinch-hit. Seager, who smacked a base hit, has been reduced to pinch-hit duty for the last two weeks because of a sore right elbow.
That never would've happened in years past, but these are the days of the nevers.
"Adrian's still dealing with the back," Roberts explained. "The challenge for us with Adrian the rest of this month is to use him off the bench in a meaningful pinch-hit spot, but also give him enough starts to stay current. That's where we're at."
For a team heading into Wednesday night's action 46 games over .500 and running away with the National League West title for the fifth consecutive season, the Dodgers have an awful lot of questions to answer before the playoffs begin.
They haven't even been to the World Series since defeating the A's in five games in the 1988 Fall Classic, and certainly the pressure is mounting to get there and win. As the team had won just once in 11 games since Aug. 25, Roberts has been talking a lot about it, and fans have become uneasy.
Deals for Yu Darvish and Curtis Granderson have yet to work out the way they were envisioned.
Darvish has been trying to adjust his mechanics and release point and after opening with seven scoreless innings during his Aug. 4 debut in a victory over the Mets at Citi Field, he has a 6.16 ERA in his last four starts.
Granderson had a grand slam at Pittsburgh in his third game with the Dodgers, but overall, he's hitting .105 in 16 games without a homer since Aug. 24.
The Granderson trade and the return of A-Gon from the DL had some unintended consequences.
Joc Pederson was sent to the Minors and started his first game for the Dodgers in center field on Wednesday night since Aug. 18. The Dodgers were 53 games over .500 and had a 20-game lead in the standings on the day Pederson was sent down. According to Statcast™, Pederson is the Dodgers' second best defensive outfielder with a catch expectancy rate of 92 percent.
In his absence, the Dodgers auditioned top prospect Alex Verdugo, who went 2-for-11 with no RBIs or extra base hits in five games.
In the game at Detroit on Aug. 19, Cody Bellinger was shifted from first base to right field to make room for Gonzalez in the lineup. Bellinger promptly sprained his right ankle making a play in the outfield and spent 10 days on the DL. In the seven games since his return, Bellinger is hitting just .172 with two homers and three RBIs.
Meanwhile, second baseman John Forsythe is 3-for-his-last-26 and a .246 hitter with runners in scoring position since his pickup this past offseason in a trade with Tampa Bay, making Roberts wonder if he's the most effective player to use at that position.
The veteran Chase Utley, hitting .233, started at second on Wednesday night.
Seager is expected to return to full-time duty this weekend when the Rockies play a four-game series at Dodger Stadium. That begged the question whether Chris Taylor, who's played plenty of short with Seager out, might be given a try at second base.
"We've thought about a lot of things," Roberts said. "We're not at that point yet where we're going to consider Taylor to play second base, and we know he can play second base. The second basemen we have now we have confidence in. But everything needs to be taken into consideration."
With A-Gon on limited duty and Bellinger back at first, other decisions have to be made. Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner are fixtures in right field and third base, respectively. So is a healthy Seager, of course, at short, and Yasmani Grandal behind the plate.
It's amazing that with a team this good and so close to the playoffs, so much of its season is still in flux.