Dodgers Roster: Realigning the Starting Pitching Depth Chart

Urias
(Mandatory Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Admittedly for many fans of the Dodgers, veteran lefty Rich Hill wasn’t the first member of the original starting rotation thought to have been destined for a stay on the 10-day disabled list so early in the season. But while this move is more of a precautionary measure than a required need, it’s probably safe to say that Hill’s stay will result more towards the minimum amount of time instead of an elongated period. Even so, it surely doesn’t hurt to take a look at the depth chart beyond the current starting five.

Despite a wobbly outing against the Rockies on Saturday, resident ace Clayton Kershaw has found decent rhythm early and spearheads the current group, with Japanese righty Kenta Maeda flanking him in the No. 2 slot. Maeda appeared to be just a few ticks towards the rusty side in his debut efforts against the Padres last Tuesday, but he’s confident enough that he’ll find his groove in no time.

Southpaw Alex Wood will leave the bullpen to temporarily assume Hill’s spot in the rotation for however long is required. Although Wood isn’t as fully stretched out as a starter should be this early in the year, he should be in a position to provide at least a solid three, if not four, innings of work against the Cubs on Monday. 70-75 pitches seems about the right count for Wood on Sunday, if all goes well.

Behind Wood sit Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who both made rather impressive starts in their respective debuts. Both players have somewhat extensive histories of injuries, yet each seems to be in fine shape at the moment. A better gauge of where both pitchers are at exactly will be utilized next week when each throws a game on the road at Wrigley.

While many think that righty Ross Stripling could be next in the pecking order, it could be safe to assume that the club would keep Strip as the long man for now, and instead turn to lefty Julio Urias in a crisis, so long as Wood is in the rotation. If Hill comes back right on schedule, Wood could float as the emergency starter so-to-speak, at least until Urías finishes up his quiet time saving his left arm for the tail end of the season. Urías is scheduled to make his 2017 debut with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Monday, but his plans after that remain to be seen.

On another note, the way the roster is set up currently, reliever Josh Field’s big league stay could be a quick one, as his spot may be given to hard-throwing righty Pedro Baez, who appears to be ready to join the club in Chicago on Monday.

Beyond Urías and Stripling, the remainder of the depth chart gets a little cloudy, especially since neither Brock Stewart or Scott Kazmir have any defined timetable of recovery. It’s not known if Kaz has even been pitching to live batters yet. While Stewart has been throwing up to 75 feet recently, he still could be three or more weeks away from any type of rehab assignment.

Righty sinkerballer Trevor Oaks figures to be somewhere on the big league depth chart, but it’s unlikely that the club will sacrifice a year of team control unless it’s an absolute emergency. Alternatively, if a dire need should arise down the road, the Dodgers may turn to either Wilmer Font, Jair Jurrjens, or Justin Masterson, all three who are hopeful reclamation projects being stashed away in the depths of Oklahoma City.

In the end, although many fans may be fearing the worst as far as starting pitching depth goes, the Dodgers still have plenty of quality depth to utilize despite the current injuries to Hill, Kazmir and Stewart. If Maeda does indeed find his groove and both McCarthy and Ryu continue to show signs of longevity, the rotation of the Dodgers should easily rank as on of the five best in the National League.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)
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