With the arrival of Opening Day now hovering right around the three week mark, much of the fan focus has steadied on the prospective starting rotation of the Dodgers, as each passing day seemingly has one small happening or event which somehow affects the future makeup of the pitching staff.
On the injury front, reports surfaced on Sunday that righty Brock Stewart has been struggling with soreness in his shoulder, and has been shut down for approximately one week.
“He just got a little fatigued and there was some soreness in his shoulder,” skipper Dave Roberts explained to the media on Sunday morning.
So far this spring, Stewart has only appeared in two Cactus League contests, throwing 3-1/3 innings while surrendering five hits and seven earned runs. And although his shoulder problem doesn’t affect the rotation directly, it certainly minimizes the amount of depth on the pitching staff, especially if some type of injury epidemic decides to surface similar to that of last season.
Speaking of injuries, veteran southpaw Scott Kazmir has resumed throwing after an MRI on his left hip came back clean earlier in the week. Roberts told reporters that Kazmir had the opportunity to throw in an abbreviated sim game on Saturday, and that the results seemed promising.
“I think he figured some things out toward the end,” Roberts said.
It’s probably important for Kazmir to continue throwing if he’s able, because if he’s shut down like Stewart, he may have to start back at square one as far as stretching out and strengthening his arm. Although there’s still a lot of time between now and then, if both Kazmir and Stewart are unable to pitch effectively by Opening Day, Alex Wood is guaranteed a spot in the rotation, while righty Ross Stripling skyrockets on the depth chart. Furthermore, the management crew of the Dodgers may even want to reconsider its earlier thoughts of starting youngster Julio Urias in extended spring training, as any additional injuries or complications among the staff could mandate his presence on the big league roster.
As far as progressions go, lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu made his first appearance of the spring on Saturday, throwing two scoreless innings against the Angels. He allowed one hit, struck out two and walked none.
“As a starting pitcher, it was painful to not be on the mound,” Ryu said through a translator after the game. “The most important thing is that I’m healthy. There’s a few more games that I’m probably going to pitch in spring training. So if I just focus on each game at a time, I’m pretty sure good results will follow.”
Even when April eventually rolls around, it’s probably safe to assume that Ryu won’t play into the rotation equation early, as the Dodgers will likely take things slow again this spring, making sure he is 100 percent or close before being considered for a big league start. Extended spring training for Ryu is almost certainly a realistic option.
In perhaps even better news, Brandon McCarthy was stellar in his start on Friday night, throwing three scoreless frames while striking out three batters and allowing only one hit. His latest outing was the best he’s looked all spring, and if he stays in rhythm, is almost a cinch for the Opening Day rotation.
“I’m sharper right now, got myself where I’d like to be. I’m still evolving, but it’s better than it was last year,” McCarthy said.
Taking all the latest news into consideration, our current projections have Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, McCarthy and Wood as the starting pitching crew for the Dodgers at the beginning of the regular season.
In split-squad games on Sunday, Kersh went four full innings in the early affair, giving up just two hits and one earned run against the Royals at Surprise Stadium, while Wood endured three innings under the lights at Camelback, surrendering three hits and one earned run against the White Sox.
On Monday afternoon in Tempe, Maeda will make his third appearance of the spring against former Dodger Ricky Nolasco and the Angels.