(Photo Credit: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
If most teams in baseball would experience even a taste of the trials and tribulations that the Dodgers‘ starting rotation has endured so far in 2016, those particular clubs would have already exhausted much of their major league-ready pitching inventory, perhaps as far down as the Single-A level.
Instead, the Dodgers are still alive and clawing away at the current campaign, and amidst all the imaginable ups and downs of a very unpredictable year, the team finds itself neck and neck with the Giants in the divisional race, while presently setting the bar for other clubs hoping to clinch a NL Wild Card spot.
It’s not too often that we take an exclusive look at the Dodgers rotation as a whole. The last time we broke down the club’s starting pitching scenario, ace Clayton Kershaw was the workhorse of the group, and being an underachieving six games out of first place, we opined that it was tough to see Los Angeles contending for a playoff spot without any significant upgrades:
“It seems troublesome to show confidence in a trio of Kershaw/Scott Kazmir/Kenta Maeda in any type of playoff scenario, but at almost the 60-game mark in the 2016 campaign, the Dodgers have yet to prove that they are a club worthy of playoff aspirations. Several other areas such as offensive consistency and bullpen effectiveness need to be addressed; however, if the Boys in Blue can continue to hold it together, the club certainly has plenty of valuable bargaining chips to make a splash in the trade market in July. While there’s always the hope of healthy returns for Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson and Ryu, the first third of the year has already proven that it’s not wise to depend on such possibilities. In the meantime, there’s no time left in the ‘feeling-out’ process for the front office, the coaching staff or the players. The season is passing by quickly, and a certain hated team to the north continues to extend its divisional lead.”
On the contrary, thanks in part to an emerging offensive force in the second half of the season, the starting pitchers have grinded away and persevered, and along with a little bit of luck, may be in a good spot of contention about six weeks from now.
Anderson is back and feeling great, saying he’s excited to make his 2016 debut on Sunday against the Pirates after having back surgery and being sidelined for the first four months of the season. He will become the 13th different starting pitcher used by the Dodgers this year.
Bud Norris looked solid in a minor league rehab start on Saturday night, throwing just shy of six full innings for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, setting him up for a possible return to the Dodgers’ starting rotation later next week.
Kershaw played an easy game of catch for the second consecutive day on Saturday, increasing the distance to 90 feet, but his targeted return from the disabled list remains unknown. It was the third time Kershaw threw the ball at long distance since suffering a setback with his injured lower back shortly after the All-Star break ended. Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts indicated that a throwing session on the mound could take place soon.
“There might be something on the horizon, but I’m not sure what day,” Roberts said about an upcoming light bullpen.
In the meantime, expecting to be reshuffled back into the bullpen after a seven-inning start on Friday, rookie Ross Stripling is on alert as a starter after McCarthy was yanked with an apparent hip problem after lasting only 1-2/3 innings in Saturday’s contest.
Julio Urias, who picked up the win in long relief of McCarthy, is anticipating working out of the Dodgers’ bullpen, at least for the foreseeable future.
Rich Hill is scheduled to make a rehab start for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Monday night. The 36-year-old southpaw has been struggling with blisters on his left middle finger and hasn’t appeared in a major league game for almost five weeks.
Roberts said that Maeda and Kazmir, the grinders of the 2016 rotation, would start in Philadelphia on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, but would not announce the team’s pitching plans beyond then.
Maeda has logged a 3.31 ERA in 23 starts over 130 innings of work this season, while Kazmir has pitched to the tune of a 4.44 ERA over 127 innings.
After undergoing elbow surgery in the middle of July, Alex Wood is progressing and hopes to return sometime in mid-September in a conceivable relief role.