Fifth starter still question mark for Dodgers

Roberts uncertain if Tepesch will make another start after 5-run debut

Fifth starter still question mark for Dodgers

PITTSBURGH -- Let the guessing begin on the Dodgers starting pitcher for Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

The Nick Tepesch experiment, which wasn't announced until Thursday afternoon, didn't turn out so well Friday night. The right-hander allowed five runs in four innings in his Dodgers debut, then was followed by a bullpen that couldn't control the damage in an 8-6 loss to the Pirates that opened a seven-game trip and ended a six-game win streak.

Maybe Tepesch gets another chance, maybe not.

"We haven't decided," said manager Dave Roberts. "Nick's made 40 Major League starts [with Texas from 2013-14], and we're going to decide tonight or tomorrow morning what's best for the club going forward."

The Dodgers are desperate for a fifth starter, and they'll need a fourth starter too as soon as they throttle back 19-year-old Julio Urias, which will come sooner rather than later.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood and Frankie Montas are either hurt or on rehab assignments, and even when any of them show up, expecting deep outings won't be realistic. Ross Stripling isn't ready after being idled to conserve innings. Mike Bolsinger didn't capitalize on his chances, and Zach Lee didn't even get a chance before being dealt to Seattle.

Roberts puts positive spin on Ryu's rehab start

Maybe the Dodgers will give Carlos Frias the next chance they didn't give Lee. Frias has a 4.55 ERA at Triple-A since returning from an oblique injury, but threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings in his last appearance.

The Dodgers could have used Thursday's day off to skip the fifth starter and move up Kenta Maeda, the only starter other than Clayton Kershaw to pitch into the seventh inning since May 14. But they've already seen that Maeda works better with extra rest, and then there are those "irregularities" that showed up on his signing physical. Management apparently is determined to give those irregularities as much extra rest as possible or risk Maeda joining Ryu, McCarthy, et al.

"I don't know where we'd be without Clayton," Roberts said. "We've tapped into our depth, I'll say that. We're all trying to compete, obviously with an eight-man 'pen it's not ideal. We've got to get length from the starters consistently. Anything outside of that is not a formula to sustain winning. I'll leave it at that."

So, Tepesch got the ball and got ahead of hitters but couldn't put them away in a four-run second inning. It wasn't the triumphant return for Tepesch, who missed all of 2015 with elbow issues and surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, then opted out of his Triple-A contract with Texas for this chance.

"I made bad pitches up in the zone, and they took advantage of it," Tepesch said. "I had counts I was ahead and didn't make good enough pitches, and it hurt me."

The top of the Dodgers lineup, particularly Corey Seager and his four hits, kept chipping away at Pittsburgh's lead. Twice the lead was only a run, one of those after a Yasiel Puig homer.

But Louis Coleman was charged with a pair of runs in the fifth inning and Chris Hatcher allowed a leadoff homer to Matt Joyce in the seventh, and the Dodgers never caught up.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.