Dodgers Bullpen Picture Becomes Clearer, Yet Some Uncertainty Still Lingers

(AP Photo)

With less than seven days remaining before the Dodgers commence their 2017 regular season campaign, both the media and the fans were given a roster clue of sorts on Monday afternoon, when skipper Dave Roberts indicated that Brandon McCarthy and Alex Wood were both still in competition for the fourth spot in the rotation, but whoever misses out on the starting slot will have a place in the big league bullpen.

Moments before the statement, Roberts announced that 29-year-old lefty Hyun-jin Ryu has secured the fifth spot in the Dodgers’ starting rotation.

Both McCarthy and Wood are starters by pedigree, but McCarthy seems to be the logical choice for the rotation based on his current skill set. Besides working strictly as a middle reliever for the White Sox in 2006, McCarthy doesn’t have much bullpen experience, outside of one showing against the Giants last September when he surrendered six runs on five hits and a walk without recording an out. That particular outing, as dreadful as it was, was the beginning of the end for the 33-year-old righty, who was never able to regain control of his mechanics and delivery for the remainder of the season.

Wood, on the other hand, has found success in relief as recently as last year. The 26-year-old southpaw persevered through elbow rehab and went on to make four impressive relief appearances of shutout ball down the stretch of the 2016 regular season, ultimately earning a bullpen spot on the NLCS roster against the Cubs in October.

Whatever route the management crew of the Dodgers decides to take, though, the inclusion of Wood or McCarthy in the bullpen seemingly pushes somebody else out, unless the club decides to carry eight relievers, which isn’t likely.

The first thought to come to mind Monday evening was righty Ross Stripling, who has options, but was still projected by numerous models to have nailed down a spot as a long man. However, on Tuesday morning the team announced that Brandon Morrow will not be included on the Opening Day 25-man roster. Morrow, who appeared to be healthy and throwing well, is attempting to continue his comeback after missing more than 18 months with a severe shoulder injury that originally occurred back in 2015.

Another possibility that has stirred recently is the omission of veteran righty Chris Hatcher. The 32-year-old Hatcher has made 12 appearances so far this spring, having compiled a 7.27 ERA after surrendering 11 runs and 13 hits — three of which were long balls — over 8-2/3 innings of work. Despite the ugly numbers, many think that he’ll be given a fair shot into the regular season, mainly because of his guaranteed one-year contract which he was tendered last December.

Theoretically, Grant Dayton still has plenty of options, but it’s hard to imagine him not being included on the 25-man roster, as many pundits believe he’ll ultimately emerge as the Dodgers’ second or third best overall relief option once all the relievers settle into their principal roles.

So assuming Wood joins the relief crew, he’ll be accompanied by fellow southpaws Luis Avilan — who has no options — and Dayton. Barring injury, Kenley Jansen and Sergio Romo will headline the entire crew, which leaves two final spots that presumably go to Hatcher and Stripling. All that being said, it relegates a few quality arms, most specifically Adam Liberatore and Josh Fields, to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

More importantly, because Wood and Stripling will not be properly stretched out, it limits their abilities to make a lengthy start in an emergency situation, should the need arise. That leaves youngster Trevor Oaks to headline the rotation at OKC, at least until Brock Stewart is ready, and may be the first to get the call when an injury occurs at the major league level.

Subsequently, lefty Julio Urias will assume a spot in the big league rotation at some point, most likely being activated sometime towards the beginning of May.

In the meantime, Wood will start one of Tuesday’s split-squad contests against the Reds at Goodyear, while McCarthy will be in line for a quick tuneup at some point during the Freeway Series this weekend.

As always, be sure to check back in frequently for any news and updates, as the management crew of the Dodgers will likely continue to reveal more hints surrounding the prospective roster in the final days leading up to Opening Day.



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