Series Preview #6, @ Los Angeles Dodgers

Expect to see this one as a caption contest in a future Pit Your Wits... - Christian Petersen

The Diamondbacks disaster story goes to Hollywood for the first time this year. This time, the Snakes try to end their seven-game losing streak to Puig and Co. to start 2014.

Editor's note. Due to time pressures, Tyler Pollard has had to step down from writing the series previews - we wish him all the best, and thank him for his efforts. In his place, we welcome Fabian Ardaya, a senior at Chandler High School, who will be attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State in the fall as part of the Barrett's Honors College. He has also been part of CTownRivals.com, covering Chandler-area high school sports, and we're glad to have him aboard.

So what's new?

It's been just about a week since the last time that these two met, when the Dodgers invaded Chase Field for a dominant three game sweep (Don't worry, the pool was fine). However, since then it's been for of the same for the Diamondbacks, as they lost all three matchups against the New York Mets to go 0-6 for the home stand. The Diamondbacks continued what has been the worst start in franchise history, with Major League Baseball's highest team ERA (6.14) by over half a run while performing at a league average rate offensively (3.8 runs per game, .252 team batting average). The Dodgers, on the other hand, are battling for ground atop the NL West against the San Francisco Giants. They dropped the first two of that series in the Bay Area, narrowly losing 3-2 and 2-1 to drop their second straight series against the Giants.

On the mend

Diamondbacks outfielder Cody Ross is set to return to the major league lineup in Friday's opener after suffering a freak hip injury last August, injuring himself running down the first base line. Ross was originally expected to return to the major league club during their series against the Mets earlier this week, but a setback while rehabbing at Triple-A Reno pushed his return back to the start of this upcoming road trip.

Arizona Republic Diamondbacks beat reporter Nick Piecoro tweeted out the news of Ross's return:

Despite the setback during his rehab, Ross is expected to be just fine as he makes his 2014 debut Friday.

The Dodgers activated reliever Brian Wilson from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday prior to their series against the Giants after suffering from right elbow irritation. In order to make room for Wilson on the major league roster, the Dodgers optioned reliever Paco Rodriguez to Triple-A Albuquerque. Rodriguez has a 3.18 ERA in eight appearances this season, but he was one of two Dodgers relievers with remaining minor league options.

Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw is seeing progress in returning from an injury to his left shoulder (which he sustained in the Dodgers opener against the Diamondbacks in Australia). According to manager Don Mattingly, Kershaw threw at about 85 miles per hour Tuesday, throwing strictly fastballs.

"It feels like we're getting close, but I don't know for sure," Kershaw told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon. "We're trying to raise the ceiling a little bit every day."

What's up with Trevor Cahill?

Ever since sending pitchers Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook along with outfielder Collin Cowgill in return for Craig Breslow and Trevor Cahill in December 2011, the pressure has been placed on Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers. The Diamondbacks were giving up two pitching prospects who had shown flashes in brief major league stints and who they were very high on essentially in return for an average left hander to add to the bullpen in Breslow and for an established No. 2 starter in Cahill.

On paper, the deal looked to be a fairly even swap. Cahill was just a year removed from an impressive 18-8 campaign in 2011 that saw him post a 2.97 ERA over 196 innings, and had proven to be a solid ground ball pitcher and innings eater. Breslow had consistently been one of the most reliable left handed relief pitchers in the league throughout this year, only solidifying a then-strong D-Backs bullpen. While Parker and Cook were intriguing prospects who had shown signs of taking the next step, they had more than their share of lumps at the major league level.

However, Breslow was gone by that July's trade deadline, and while he has yet to gain his 2010 form over the first two years since the deal, Cahill put together a solid first two campaigns (13-12, 3.78 ERA, 200 IP in 2012; 8-10, 3.99 ERA, 146.2 IP in 2013). Parker has since put together a promising 2013 campaign (12-8, 3.97 ERA) before tearing his UCL this spring, costing him the 2014 season. Cook has thrived in the setup role for the Athletics, posting a 2.36 ERA over his first 142 appearances in the Bay Area.

The wheels seem to have come off for Cahill in 2014, as he has gone 0-4 with a 9.17 ERA, lasting just 17.2 innings through his first four starts. Cahill has given up the second most earned runs in major league baseball thus far, second to teammate Brandon McCarthy. Cahill has also given up a staggering .379 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which as a presumed ground ball pitcher who tends to pitch to contact can be a troubling sign. He has trended away from what made him successful, as his ground ball/fly ball ratio has decreased in each of the last three years (which is especially worrisome when he is pitching at hitter-friendly Chase Field instead of the cavernous O.Co Coliseum in Oakland).

Cahill's struggles have now led to the return of Josh Collmenter to the starting rotation, as he is making his first starts since 2012. Rookie right hander Mike Bolsinger will also make his first major league start after making his major league debut last week. Cahill is expected to remain in the Diamondbacks bullpen, as his deal ($20 million through 2015, plus 2016, 2017 team options) makes him a tough person to trade.

No matter what happens, lets hope that Trevor Cahill straightens things out and can return to being a productive major leaguer.

Pitching matchups

Game 1, Friday, 7:10 PT: LHP Wade Miley (2-2, 5.04 ERA) vs. RHP Zack Greinke (3-0, 2.76 ERA)

It goes to show the struggles of the Diamondbacks rotation that their best pitcher has arguably been Wade Miley. The southpaw has in fact looked better than the numbers suggest, going at least five innings in each of his four starts. Both of his losses, however, came against the Dodgers, including last Saturday, where he gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings of an 8-5 loss. Greinke has been red hot to start 2014, including going 5.1 innings against the Diamondbacks last week, giving up one run in their 8-5 win.

Game 2, Saturday 5:10 pm PT: RHP Mike Bolsinger (2-0, 1.42 ERA in Triple-A Reno) vs. RHP Dan Haren (2-0, 2.04 ERA)

Bolsinger will be making his first major league start, taking Trevor Cahill's turn in the starting rotation. The right hander was impressive for Triple-A Reno, going 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in two starts for the minor league club. He also made his major league debut on Monday, getting knocked around for two runs on six hits over three innings after coming in relief for Josh Collmenter. Haren has not been announced as the official starter, but he has been a pleasant surprise for Los Angeles after a largely disappointing season last year for the Nationals. He had his worst appearance of the season Sunday against the Diamondbacks, but was still solid, giving up three runs over 5.2 innings in the Dodgers' 8-6 win to seal the series sweep.

Game 3, Sunday 1:10 pm PT: RHP Josh Collmenter (0-1, 3.75 ERA) vs. UNANNOUNCED

Fans have been clamoring for the tomahawking Collmenter to return to the rotation ever since Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson decided to move him to the bullpen near the end of the 2012 season, and they got their wish. Collmenter made his first start in almost two years Monday, giving up three runs in four innings before reaching his pitch limit. Collmenter gave up a run in relief in his only other appearance against the Dodgers this season on March 23rd in Australia. It is Josh Beckett's turn in the rotation for Los Angeles, but he has struggled with ankle issues early on in 2014.

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