Hernández: Mookie Betts and Yoshinobu Yamamoto injuries create a Dodgers trade deadline dilemma

They were both learning to do something they’d never done before, Mookie Betts playing shortstop full-time and Yoshinobu Yamamoto pitching in the major leagues.

Their respective educations were suddenly paused on Sunday.

Betts broke his left hand when he was struck by a 98-mph fastball during the Dodgers’ 3-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Yamamoto was placed on the injured list with a strained rotator cuff.

Manager Dave Roberts said he expected the two players to return this season, but what he neglected to mention was how unlikely they were to come back as the players the Dodgers were hoping they would be.

How can the Dodgers count on Betts to play shortstop at a championship level in October after missing the next several weeks?

How can they rely on Yamamoto to be their No. 2 starter in the playoffs after he broke down just two months into the season?

In both cases, they can’t.

This shouldn’t cost the Dodgers the National League West — they lead the division by eight games — but if they’re serious about contending for a World Series, they’ll have to strike a couple of deals between now and the July 30 trade deadline.

Here’s the problem: There might not be any deals for them to strike.

Willy Adames?

The Brewers are in first place and are unlikely to trade their shortstop, even though he will be a free agent this winter.

Bo Bichette?

The two-time All-Star is having the worst season of his career and the Toronto Blue Jays might only want to move him if they have a fire sale.

The pitching market is equally, if not more, uninspiring.

Corbin Burnes and Dylan Cease, the two best pitchers who were expected to be part of the market, were already traded. Burnes went from the Brewers to the Baltimore Orioles and Cease from the White Sox to the San Diego Padres.

Luis Severino of the New York Mets and Tyler Anderson of the Angels figure to be moved in the coming months, but neither of them is considered better than the pitchers the Dodgers already have.

The Dodgers shouldn’t be looking for quantity, of which they already have plenty. They should be looking for quality.

Their lack of high-end pitching cost them in recent postseasons, and the $500-plus million they invested in Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow was an indirect acknowledgment of that. Yamamoto and Glasnow, however, came with major risks.

Glasnow has never made more than 21 starts in a season or pitched more than 120 innings. He made his 15th start of the season when he pitched seven scoreless innings on Sunday, the most starts he’d ever made consecutively without sustaining an injury.

There were also questions about the durability of Yamamoto, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and pitched only once a week in Japan. Yamamoto rarely threw his slider in his home country, as he believed it led to discomfort in his elbow. He didn’t throw a single slider in any of his first six starts with the Dodgers, but the higher level of competition forced him to adjust.

Yamamoto threw the pitch a season-high 13 times during a recent start against the New York Yankees in which he registered seven scoreless innings. He pushed back his next start by three days. When he finally returned to the mound on Saturday, his fastball velocity was down and he lasted only two innings.

Was the slider responsible for his injury?

“That’s a fair question,” Roberts said.

Does he need the pitch to be effective at this level?

Considering Yamamoto relies heavily on a four-seam fastball, splitter and curveball, Roberts said, “to have something that’s hard and turns to the left, it’s certainly another weapon.”

“But there’s a balance of, if that’s something that causes discomfort, then you gotta think long and hard about it,” Roberts said.

Yamamoto will refrain from throwing for the next couple of weeks, according to Roberts.

“We’ll kind of see where we go from there,” Roberts said.

The timeline for Betts’ return was also undefined, though Betts said he should have a better idea after a scheduled visit on Monday with hand specialist Steven Shin.

Shohei Ohtani said in Japanese of watching Betts crumple to the floor after he was struck by a heater delivered by Royals right-hander Dan Altavilla: “I think it was a tough moment for the team as a whole. I think he’s an indispensable player.”

On offense, certainly.

However, on defense, Betts remains a below average shortstop. He last played the position regularly in high school and didn’t move there this year until shortly before opening day. Betts has tried to make up for his experience by taking grounders before almost every game.

Every game Betts misses will cost him a chance to make up the ground he lost while playing right field and second base during the previous 10 years of his major league career.

“While praying for his return,” Ohtani said, “I’d like for us to cover for him as a team.”

Ohtani didn’t say this, but the responsibility to do so isn’t exclusive to the players. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and the small army of assistants who make up the front office share the burden. They’ll have to find players in a down market.

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