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Ishii? Nomo? Jackson? Does It Matter?
2004-09-13 10:05
by Jon Weisman

Despite that feeling you might have in your churning gut, the crisis of the No. 5 Dodger starter is about as serious as a parking ticket.

Neither Kazuhisa Ishii or Hideo Nomo inspires much confidence in Dodger manager Jim Tracy, with Tracy already casting Ishii out of the starting rotation (again). All things being equal, at this stage of the season, I would still take the up-and-down Ishii, whose ups have been scintillating, over Nomo. But all things are not equal. For one, Ishii is having a precuationary MRI on his back today.

So we turn unsteadily to Nomo, whose next scheduled start is Friday in Colorado. It's the place where someone named Nomo once pitched a no-hitter, but that was a different Nomo. This Nomo in Colorado might not be pretty.

On the bright side - and this is important - it could be the last beating we have to worry about Nomo taking this season.

On Monday, September 20, following the Colorado series, the Dodgers get their final off day of the regular season. If they want, they can use that day to skip the No. 5 slot in the rotation and rely on Odalis Perez, Jose Lima, Wilson Alvarez and Jeff Weaver for eight consecutive games from September 18-26, all the way through their final road series at San Diego and San Francisco.

Depending on how things look, the Dodgers could spot-start Nomo or Ishii in one of those two pitcher-friendly parks. In any case, only one of the Dodgers' next 13 games requires Nomo or Ishii. If the Dodgers play solid ball during that period, especially against their top division rivals, by the time it ends they might have enough of a Playoff Seat Cushion where they could turn look at Nomo, Ishii, Brad Penny and Edwin Jackson in a starting role without any grief.

Of course, in a hypothetical playoff appearance, the Dodgers can completely abandon their fifth starter. They would still have some pitching staff composition issues to solve, though. Eight spots are locked up in Weaver, Perez, Alvarez, Lima, Eric Gagne, Yhency Brazoban, Giovanni Carrara and Duaner Sanchez. Candidates for the remaining two or three slots would be Nomo, Ishii, Penny, Jackson, Elmer Dessens, Scott Stewart and Mike Venafro.

The Dodgers have maintained that they only plan to use Penny as a starter, but if he heals enough to even be a start-of-the-inning middle reliever, he would seem a much better option than other choices. Even better would be for him to return as a starter, allowing Alvarez to help out the bullpen, but that might be too much to hope for.

I suppose anyone who completely gives up on Nomo does so at his own risk. But in a relief role, might Jackson not be the best 10th or 11th man?

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