Dodger Details: Walking into dubious history, Bobby Miller’s injury and more

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LOS ANGELES — When they spoke of the potential history this high-priced group could create, nights like Sunday were not what they meant.

The Los Angeles Dodgers lit the match to their own demise and had to wait until the seventh inning to pay the price. Their pitchers walked 14 batters, inviting the danger they’d succumb to in a 6-3 loss to the San Diego Padres.

It marked the most walks the franchise had issued in a game in more than 60 seasons, a 10-4 loss to the New York Mets on June 29, 1962. Enthusiasts of strike-throwing needed to shield their eyes from the ignominy, and all manager Dave Roberts could do was sigh as he entered the room.

“The walk is something that is tough to watch,” Roberts said.

They didn’t quite do what Joe Moeller, Ron Perranoski, Phil Ortega and Stan Williams did in 1962 in combining for 16 walks, but Sunday proved just as unwatchable.

James Paxton issued a career-worst eight, saying he “just didn’t really have a feel for anything that was going” as he has piled up 14 walks in his first 16 innings this season.

When Paxton exited after consecutive walks to open the sixth inning, Ryan Brasier added to the pile with a leadoff walk to load the bases and eventually squander an early 3-1 Dodgers lead.

J.P. Feyereisen, making his return from the minors, walked two of the first three batters he faced as he, too, loaded the bases with no one out. And Jurickson Profar’s double that ricocheted off James Outman’s glove in center had already cleared the bases before Feyereisen walked another. Alex Vesia added a pair (one intentional) and Nick Ramirez added his own free pass.

“It was a whole collective effort tonight, as far as the walks,” Roberts said.

“You’re sort of trying to thread a needle every inning and trying to play perfect baseball or make a perfect pitch or have the ball hit at the right person in the right spot and hope it doesn’t find outfield grass. You’re playing with fire. You just can’t play that game. … It’s very alarming tonight to watch what we watched.”

For now, the Dodgers are relieved when it comes to their young star, Bobby Miller. For the long term, however, a familiar portrait may have had its first few brushstrokes.

The Dodgers built this rotation with a delicate balancing act. The talent is there. The track record of staying healthy is not. And despite encouraging as much rest as possible for each of their starters, they received a stark reminder of how futile that can be in putting Miller on the injured list Saturday.

The 25-year-old, who was the hardest-throwing starter in the sport who hadn’t gotten hurt, has complained of discomfort in his right shoulder for weeks. The sensation was essentially the same as typical early-season soreness, the type of thing that shut down Miller for all of 2023 spring training before he rattled off 124 1/3 big-league innings last year without issue. This time, it hasn’t gone away. He struggled to recover between starts, and within them (including his last two outings when he allowed seven runs in 5 2/3 innings) he showed atypically poor command and an inability to finish off his secondary offerings.

An MRI revealed no structural damage. The ailment didn’t necessitate an injection or any procedure. That brings relief. So, too, does the expected timeline — both Miller and Roberts were hopeful Miller could resume throwing in as soon as five to seven days, which would mitigate any sort of build-up period that would prolong his absence.

“It’s nothing crazy,” Miller said Sunday. “I’m going to be back and I’m going to be good.”

But his absence shines a light on the state of the depth behind him. The club has been opting to use Ryan Yarbrough in long relief as a bulk option and is planning to deploy him in that role this coming series against the Washington Nationals. That leaves a vacancy in Miller’s spot. Roberts said prospect Kyle Hurt — who made the Opening Day roster as a reliever but is built up to about 45 pitches — is “certainly on our radar.”

The only other healthy starter on the 40-man roster is Landon Knack.

Walker Buehler is expected to make at least one more rehab start Thursday with Triple-A Oklahoma City before the Dodgers consider reinserting him into the rotation after his second Tommy John surgery; that timeline was delayed some Friday when Buehler, in a rehab start with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, took a comebacker off the knuckle on his right pitching hand and exited after just 27 pitches. That theoretically could put Buehler into play early into this coming three-city road trip through Washington, Toronto and Phoenix.

Emmet Sheehan had ramped up enough to face hitters but has been shut down from throwing again, Roberts said. Sheehan said Sunday night he received a scan that he didn’t believe showed any structural damage in the area. His arm “just hasn’t been responding” since the Dodgers placed him on the injured list with forearm inflammation, Roberts said, and his return will be a “longer-term situation.”

That makes things difficult on a rotation that already has Clayton Kershaw and Dustin May on the shelf until at least midseason.

Gavin Stone’s leash in the starting rotation is certainly longer now in Miller’s absence, even before he took a perfect game into the sixth inning and completed 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball Saturday night.

It marked, by far, Stone’s finest night as a big leaguer and another data point in what has been a clear shift in pitch usage for the former top prospect. Of his 88 pitches in Saturday’s win over the Padres, 32 were sinkers — a career most. The pitch, which Stone didn’t even put back into his arsenal until the middle of last summer, has supplanted his four-seam as his most-used fastball and has in several ways opened up the rest of the 25-year-old’s arsenal.

The suggestion came in the midst of Stone’s lowest point in his rookie campaign. He was battered in his third big-league start, allowing seven runs in two innings against the Tampa Bay Rays and cutting short what could have been an extended run in the major-league rotation. Upon his return to the minors, the organization’s evaluation was straightforward. First, they’d noticed he was tipping his pitches. Next, he needed more horizontal options in his arsenal rather than a four-seam fastball that had gotten crushed and a go-to changeup that was inconsistent.

So he cleaned up his delivery, adding back a couple of ticks of velocity in the process. And after using a two-seam fastball for much of his time in college at Central Arkansas, he returned to it as an option against right-handed hitters (and added a cutter to have a similar effect against lefties).

“It helps a lot when you get in on guys,” Stone said. “Because it was hard for me to get in on righties without leaving the ball over the plate more often than not. But yeah, that two-seam helps getting in on righties and just opens up the outer half. Helps the changeup a little bit better, too.”

No one was expecting Blake Treinen’s first pitch off the mound this year at Dodger Stadium to come April 14. Nor were they expecting it to come in the rain against the likes of Austin Barnes and Taylor Trammell, under the watchful eye of Dodgers officials.

Treinen’s shoulder bothered him for essentially all of 2022 and 2023 and has required surgery but feels fine now. Instead, it was a freak line drive to his ribs in his final Cactus League outing that knocked him off the Opening Day roster.

So Sunday represented an important step. Treinen will face hitters twice more before going out on a rehab assignment, fortifying a bullpen that has appeared at least an arm short for much of the early going.

That issue, of course, reared its head again Sunday as Roberts scrambled to find available, capable arms for coverage. A bullpen depleted by usage the previous two nights left Evan Phillips and Daniel Hudson unavailable and slotted Feyereisen against the top of the San Diego order.

“I think if you look at how the game kind of played out, that’s certainly not an ideal run there, given the part of the lineup, the leverage, the inning, whatever the score was,” Roberts conceded.

Feyereisen promptly loaded the bases before he could record an out and surrendered the bases-clearing double to Profar.

(Photo of James Paxton after allowing a home run Sunday to Manny Machado: Harry How / Getty Images)

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