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Rotation, routine tweaks 'difficult' for Dodgers

Off-days, illnesses, extra innings contributing to adjustments on staff
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Even the best-laid plans couldn't prepare the Dodgers for this.

Swept in Arizona, with a 15-inning loss that burned the bullpen. An off-day on Thursday, a rainout on Friday, a 14-inning loss on Saturday and a 10-inning win on Sunday.

LOS ANGELES -- Even the best-laid plans couldn't prepare the Dodgers for this.

Swept in Arizona, with a 15-inning loss that burned the bullpen. An off-day on Thursday, a rainout on Friday, a 14-inning loss on Saturday and a 10-inning win on Sunday.

An off-day on Monday, another on Thursday, a starting pitcher (Alex Wood) pushed back a day because of food poisoning and another (Hyun-Jin Ryu) starting Tuesday night on eight days' rest.

Rick Honeycutt thought he had the first couple weeks of the season all planned out back in Spring Training, but then life happened. Good thing the Dodgers have a guy who's seen it all in a 21-year career as a starter and reliever, then 13 more seasons as their big league pitching coach.

Video: LAD@ARI: Ryu strikes out Owings to end the 1st

"This has been extremely difficult," said Honeycutt. "You get everybody in a routine and then everything gets changed, and some accept change better than others. It's early in the season, and everybody still has some apprehensions about where they're at."

Take Kenta Maeda, who accepted a request from management to move to the bullpen for a week, even though his incentive-laden contract rewards starts and innings pitched. Talk about taking one for the team.

"The contractual issue is just for myself, and it exactly can't dictate what the team needs to do and it shouldn't be affecting other starting pitchers," said Maeda, comfortable with such a move after his great success as a postseason reliever. "I'm looking at this as just getting some work before my next start because of the off-days. Definitely, I want to start as many times as I can."

Video: LAD@SF: Maeda strikes out Longoria to end the 7th

Clayton Kershaw, on the other hand, is a creature of habit who is best pitching every five days, and he has three National League Cy Young Awards and an NL Most Valuable Player Award to prove it. So the rotation is built around keeping him on that five-day cycle, even if that meant that when everyone else was off last Thursday, Kershaw was at the ballpark throwing a bullpen session.

"The main guy, you try to keep as regular as you can," said Honeycutt. "Other guys have to make the adjustments."

Even with a gradual dip in velocity, Kershaw is the least of Honeycutt's concerns, as demonstrated again on Sunday, when the ace took a shutout into the eighth inning against the Giants.

Video: LAD@SF: Kershaw allows one run over seven innings

Wood also isn't throwing with the same velocity as he did in his breakout All-Star first half last year, and he's abandoned the windup to get it back. Then he had some bad sushi in San Francisco, and his scheduled break was extended by food poisoning.

"It's stuff you just deal with," Wood said. "It comes with experience. Whatever works for you in the past. Sometimes it's nice to have an extra day. Sometimes you want to throw that fifth day. It's early, and you don't like to have that many off-days, but we're presented with a weird situation. You just have to do what you think is best. There's no right or wrong way to go about it."

Rich Hill had the fourth start of the season on April 1, blanking the Giants for six innings. Six days later, he went only four innings during the 14-inning marathon in San Francisco. His next start hasn't been announced yet, but it will probably be on six more days of rest.

Video: SF@LAD: Hill fans five across six scoreless innings

Then there's Ryu. As the fifth starter, he went a wobbly 3 2/3 innings in his lone start in Arizona, walking five and squandering a three-run lead in the 15-inning loss. He will start Tuesday night on seven days' rest.

"For me, it is better when I know exactly when I'm going to pitch," said Ryu. "We are basically animals of habit or routine. With the off-days, it's harder physically, but mentally, I'm always ready to go."

Coming off shoulder and elbow operations, Ryu was given gaps in his workload last year to refresh his arm, and he thinks it helped.

"At the time I wasn't sure, but now that I look at it, I was able to go through the entire season, and that is probably the reason why, because they gave me extra days like that," Ryu said. "At the same time, it was important for me to want more innings."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers