There’s always some sort of negative fallout from a frustrating divisional loss, especially one against the rival Giants. In the latest episode of a three week long stage loaded with mediocrity, Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts pulled Alex Wood after having allowed only two base runners through seven sparkling frames. Wood’s pitch count stood at only 77, yet Roberts opted instead to utilize frisbee-throwing righty Sergio Romo, who would ultimately surrender two runs en route to a 4-3 defeat in 10 innings.
Little did the fans know at the time, but Wood was indeed on a specific pitch count, which was made clear by the Dodgers’ manager is a post-game chat with the media.
“He was going to be 75-80 pitches especially when this was the first time he’d been up and down six times,” Roberts said of Wood. “Up 3-0, we’ve got to close. I liked the guys we had for those nine outs. We just didn’t get it done.”
Regardless of all the second-guessing, it was Wood’s best outing of 2016, and perhaps one of his most stellar in a Dodgers uniform. Yet for all of his efforts, a shift back to the bullpen seems imminent, despite his desire to remain in the rotation.
There’s no doubt that Wood gives the impression of being a brand new pitcher this season. He’s attacking batters with vigor, and his fastball is sitting in the 92-94 range, which in year’s past often struggled to break 90. His slider has more bite, and overall he’s exuding much more confidence. But while these qualities are very favorable for an aggressive relief pitcher, at the end of the day, the 26-year-old southpaw seems to be one of the top three potential starters on the entire staff.
A temporary bullpen role is fine for Wood, but in the end, wouldn’t six or seven strong innings as a starter every fifth day be more beneficial than appearing as a reliever for a few frames when trying to bail out that day’s starter who could not make it through four or five effective frames?
But where would he fit into the rotation? Because he has the ability to throw out of the bullpen gives the club flexibility. Veteran righty Brandon McCarthy, at his current rate of success, compliments resident ace Clayton Kershaw perfectly. Lefty Julio Urias needs innings at the big league level in order to develop into the talent that management knows he will indeed become. Despite a little bit of bad luck, southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu is throwing the ball well, yet could not be optioned back to the minors without his permission, anyway. The only hole in the rotation right now is Japanese righty Kenta Maeda, who deserves every chance in the world to find his groove and settle back into throwing effectively for more than two or three innings at a clip.
Many will argue that the extra depth is definitely a good problem to have, especially considering the injury pedigree of a number of pitchers on the Los Angeles staff. Quite often, these issues have their on magical ways of resolving themselves. And even if he is indeed shifted to the bullpen sometime soon, there’s a likely chance that he’ll be throwing again as a starter in the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, in the meantime, what does Wood need to do to prove that he belongs in the rotation? What is the driving force that makes him want to compete at his peak level?
Interesting times lie ahead, to be sure.