First and foremost, happy 30th birthday to the best pitcher on the planet, our very own Clayton Kershaw. Even though it seems that he has been with the Dodgers for a nice long time, it doesn’t seem that he should yet be at the ripe old age of 30.
Speaking of Dodgers pitchers, this weekend manager Dave Roberts announced what the starting rotation would look like heading into the start of the season. The crew will once again be anchored by Kershaw, who will make his eighth straight Opening Day start. He will be followed in order by Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
“I think we’re set, as we see it,” Roberts told MLB’s Ken Gurnick. “Right now, yeah. We have one off-day, but that’s what we’re thinking.”
The biggest surprise here is that Wood has moved up to the second spot, and Hill has moved down to fourth. The general thought had been that it would look close to last year’s rotation of Kershaw, Hill, Wood, Maeda and then Ryu.
Wood has definitely earned the honor of moving up in the rotation. Last year he made the NL All-Star squad, going undefeated in the first half, and 16-3 overall with a 2.72 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. So far this Spring he has pitched only 7-1/3 innings across three games, with a 4.91 ERA and one home run allowed with nine strikeouts. He has looked sharp in his last two outings, one being against minor leaguers on the back field.
Hill has also only pitched 7-1/3 innings so far during Cactus League play, and his last outing was a disaster. He got only one out, and allowed six runs. Wind and other factors played into it, but still not the outing Hill was looking for.
“It sucked,” he told reporters afterwards. “It was complete horse****”.
Last season, Hill went 12-8 with a 3.32 ERA over 135.2 IP and 1.09 WHIP. He is heading into his age 39 season.
I am not worried about Maeda, for he is where he should be in the rotation, and will most likely have another solid year. I am however worried about Ryu in that fifth slot. On Saturday, he gave up five earned runs in three innings. Both he and Roberts don’t seem to be worried, though.
Ryu told Alanna Rizzo after Saturday’s game that he was feeling good coming into this season, since he had been able to have a completely healthy offseason. He missed all of 2015 due to injury, and pitched only one game in 2016. Last season, he went 5-9 in 25 games, with a 3.77 ERA. He was on an innings limit, and has stated that he had some doubt about pitching after his injury.
Ryu’s fast ball was clocked as high as 93, which was the earliest in spring training it has done so.
“Everything is more profiling where Hyun-Jin used to be”, Roberts told reporters. “Me personally, I’m expecting him to have a big year.”
As I’ve expressed many times before, I very much would like to see another starter for the Dodgers. I know that Walker Buehler and eventually Julio Urias are waiting in the wings, but with Buehler being on an innings limit and Urias coming back from shoulder surgery, neither are the most solid of options at this point. Combine that with the fact that the bullpen sans Kenley Jansen has not quite sorted itself out yet, and that the bullpen could be stressed because of less innings pitched by the starters, I have a little apprehension heading into the start of the regular season.
These things usually have a way of sorting themselves out, but the fear of the unknown will get you every time. Everything could turn out fine. Or maybe the Dodgers will just have to out-slug all the other teams they play.