While there are several factors which could potentially contribute to the dynamics of the Dodgers pitching rotation over the coming week, the club still continues to take a conservative approach on a day-to-day basis, protecting themselves from one or two outcomes that may determine the fate of the starting five moving forward.
The latest news on the possible time-frame for resident ace Clayton Kershaw‘s recovery is still vague at best. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner was recently prescribed pain medication for his lower-back strain, and his medical team isn’t prepared to make a prognosis until it’s known how the meds directly affect him. The initial reports specified a 4-6 week frame of healing, yet whether it be on the short side of a month, or the longer side of six weeks, management is preparing the club for the worst case scenario, and has added a ton of arms to the bullpen just to make sure all situations are covered.
Those extra arms may be needed in the finale against the Twins on Wednesday evening, when young righty Brock Stewart will get the call for the Dodgers in his first start of the 2017 campaign. Skipper Dave Roberts on Tuesday told reporters that Stewart would be operating within a window of 50-60 pitches, and that the Illinois native would probably get at least one more start ahead of Wednesday’s nod.
The outcome of any trades which the Dodgers make between now and Monday’s non-waiver deadline will certainly have an effect on the immediate future of the starting rotation, as some of the more frequent rumblings have Los Angeles connected to righty Yu Darvish of the Rangers. Texas boss Jon Daniels has said that he’s definitely open to moving Darvish, however, recent whispers have revealed that the Rangers are interested in prized outfield prospect Alex Verdugo, plus one of either Walker Buehler or Yadier Alvarez — a deal the front office crew of the Dodgers will likely turn away from considering that Darvish will be nothing more than a rental for a few months.
The Dodgers have also been connected to front-line starter Sonny Gray of Oakland, yet for however hard Andrew Friedman and his group have been working the phones, they certainly have done a fantastic job of keeping rumors of prospective trade progress under tight wraps.
All that said, for the here and now, anyway, the rotation lines up with Stewart, All-Star lefty Alex Wood, veteran Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda. Surely not appealing by any means, but even if no trades are made between now and Monday, there may be just enough firepower to get Los Angeles to the postseason, considering the club’s offensive capabilities and the team’s 12-1/2 game lead over both the Diamondbacks and the Rockies.
The biggest concern surrounding this group of starters is length of outings, prompting the club’s management crew to opt for nine bullpen arms while having only three available position players off the bench. Hill is in the midst of his most effective phase of the season, though, and has thrown six-plus innings in four of his last five outings. On the other hand, as a starter, Wood is averaging 5.73 innings pitched per start, while Maeda is at a mere 5.19 clip and Ryu at 5.26. And while it seems like the starters can indeed survive, the prospective wear on the bullpen heading into the stretch run of the season may leave the coaching staff cringing.
In closing, the Dodgers are just fine, at least for the present moment. Beyond the aforementioned starting group, righty Ross Stripling is available in a pinch, and Wilmer Font and Justin Masterson are hanging out in Oklahoma City just dying for a shot to throw again in the bigs. Looking ahead, things could get very ugly if Kershaw’s prognosis takes a turn for the worse, especially if management stays silent before the deadline on Monday.
There’s surely enough happening to keep fans of the Dodgers in a heightened state of concern, yet there’s still plenty of time for things to play themselves out before it’s time to express any sense of panic. Stay tuned.
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