LOS ANGELES -- Chaos enveloping the Los Angeles Dodgers' pitching staff this season has forced manager Dave Roberts to rely on a heretofore unknown member who has become not only ubiquitous, but essential.
He's an unusual character, this T.B. Dee. He has never pitched anywhere in the Dodgers' organization, whether in Class A Ogden surrounded by the Wasatch Mountains or on the flat plain of Triple-A Oklahoma City. He never pitched in college, high school or even in Little League.
He never threw a fastball in anger, let alone at 100 mph. He has never known the exhilaration of striking out the side on nine pitches, nor the exasperation of giving up a game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth.
He is neither right-handed nor left-handed. In fact, he usually gets pulled within hours of his next start. Yet he has emerged as a legend in his own right.
T.B. Dee, otherwise known as TBD or To Be Determined, has served as a vital placeholder in Roberts' attempts to manage a staff ravaged by numerous injuries. Fourteen pitchers, eight of them starters, have combined for 19 injuries that sent them to the disabled list this year. Three have visited the disabled list twice. Nine remain among the ranks of the disabled.
But as the Dodgers prepare for Sunday's game against the San Diego Padres, T.B. Dee once again will relinquish his spot as a projected starter, this time to Jose De Leon, who will make his major league debut after being recalled Saturday from Triple-A Oklahoma City. The 24-year-old Puerto Rican, ranked by Baseball America and MLB.com as the Dodgers' second-best prospect at midseason, will be the 15th different starting pitcher used by Los Angeles.
At Oklahoma City, De Leon amassed 111 strikeouts in only 86 1/3 innings, forged a 7-1 record with a 2.61 earned-run average in 16 starts and held opposing batters to a .194 average. The right-hander has not conceded a run in his last 18 innings.
De Leon's fastball averages between 92-94 mph and can reach 96 mph. A vastly improved change-up complements the fastball and serves as De Leon's second-best pitch.
De Leon succeeded despite pitching only once before June. The right-hander sprained an ankle in spring training, then experienced a sore shoulder after his season debut with Oklahoma City on May 3.
"He's had a fantastic second half of the season and earned the right to get up here," Roberts told the Orange County Register.
The Padres will counter with left-hander Christian Friedrich, who will make his first start since Aug. 23. Friedrich pitched in relief for the first time this year Tuesday night and issued one walk in a no-hit inning against the Atlanta Braves.
Eight successive losses as a starter, combined with career highs of 99 2/3 innings and 18 starts, necessitated Friedrich's temporary move to the bullpen.
"With the two off-days, it gives him a little extra rest," San Diego manager Andy Green told MLB.com when the Padres were in Miami last weekend. "We'll kind of minimize his work load with the intention of getting him back into the rotation for another start."
Friedrich's next victory not only would be his first since June 23. It would be his fifth of the season, tying his career best. The left-hander won four games in 2012 as a starter with the Colorado Rockies.
Meanwhile, T.B. Dee will have to wait. And wait. And wait.