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Uncertainty at back of rotation led to Dodgers acquiring Roberto Hernandez

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Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

LOS ANGELES – Right-handed pitcher Roberto Hernandez is, last we heard, 33 years old, coming up on 34. He was quite competent once, and then he wasn’t, and then he wasn’t whom we thought he was, and now it’s difficult to know exactly what he is.

For the moment, the Los Angeles Dodgers hope he’s merely a decent alternative.

To what ails the back end of their starting rotation.

To what threatens their intentions of holding off the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.

To, among other things, Josh Beckett.

On Thursday, the Dodgers acquired Hernandez from the Philadelphia Phillies for two players to be named later or cash. Hernandez is expected to start in Beckett’s place Friday night in Milwaukee.

The agreement came hours after Dan Haren, another recently suspect area of a rotation that leads with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu, beat the Angels with 7 1/3 sturdy innings, and hours before Hernandez was to start for the Phillies against the Houston Astros.

Beckett, after three months spent reclaiming his prime, has since struggled to remain upright and effective. He developed a torn labrum in his hip, which could require surgery. He has reached the end of the fifth inning in two of his past five starts in which, beyond stressing a rather thin bullpen, he has a 6.55 ERA. Over those 22 innings, he’s allowed 30 hits and 11 walks. He’d stopped throwing between starts, as brief as those were, in an attempt to save his deteriorating body for pitches that counted.

Beckett was scheduled to start Friday. According to a team source, Hernandez will make that start instead. Also, Hernandez told reporters in Philadelphia he would pitch Friday. Because of the worsening hip injury and what are believed to be various other ailments, Beckett could miss significant time, a source said Thursday, though surgery has not yet been prescribed.

In 23 appearances for the Phillies, 20 of them starts, Hernandez was 6-8 with a 3.87 ERA. In his past four starts, one of them against the Brewers in Milwaukee, he had a 1.88 ERA and a .170 batting average against.

Last week, the Dodgers could’ve had Jon Lester, David Price or John Lackey. This week, Cole Hamels reportedly was claimed on waivers by the Chicago Cubs, so long before the Dodgers would have had a shot at him.

In choosing to hold firm on the top three prospects in the organization (a defendable decision), which cost them a chance at Price and Lester in particular (and Jeff Samardzija before that), they were left with the likes of Hernandez, a journeyman sinkerballer coming off a decent month, or various internal options the club deemed inadequate.

As Beckett’s next start drew nearer, and then that start was in jeopardy because of Beckett’s physical state, general manager Ned Colletti called the Phillies about Plan B, which was Hernandez.

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