While many fans of the Dodgers consider the shocking news of Hyun-Jin Ryu‘s groin injury as a huge blow to the starting rotation, the fact that it’s conceivable he may return sometime after the All-Star break could prove to be a huge boost during the stretch run of the season.
To have muscle fibers tear completely off the bone and eventually return to the bump within 90 days is extremely impressive, although by no means will the club rely on the ballpark return date as being concrete.
The way it stands right now, young righty Walker Buehler will be recalled to start the opener against the Padres in Mexico on Friday, followed by Kenta Maeda in the second game on Saturday. Rich Hill is expected to be activated from the disabled list for the finale on Sunday after spending a few weeks on the shelf due to complications from a cracked fingernail. Clayton Kershaw will start the opener against the Diamondbacks at home on Tuesday after the team has a day off on Monday.
Buehler should have a semi-permanent spot in the rotation for now, despite the many organizational rumblings during spring camp that his innings limit for 2018 would fall somewhere around 150 frames. Team management is still being cautious with the 23-year-old after he endured Tommy John surgery not long after being selected in the 2015 draft.
So what does the depth chart look like after Buehler? Well, we know that righty swingman Brock Stewart is always an option. Stewart was seemingly recalled last week to fill Hill’s spot in the rotation last Monday, yet Ross Stripling ended up getting the spot start while Stewart was used in relief, subsequently being sent back down to Oklahoma City one day later. The team doesn’t appear to be firm on a direction with Stewart, as he has thrown mainly as a reliever in his recent big league call-ups while being used a starter at the Triple-A level. Still, the option is there if the club should need it, as is the recourse of using Stripling.
Beyond that, things start to get a bit grim. While there’s indeed plenty of talent on the farm, the highly touted prospects are currently sitting at the Double-A level or below, and some are even finishing up stints at extended spring training in efforts to conserve the lives of their arms.
Manny Banuelos is leading the charge at the Triple-A level, sporting a 3-0 record with a 2.16 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP. He has struck out an impressive 29 batters over 25 innings in five starts. Banuelos isn’t on the team’s 40-man roster; however, spots shouldn’t be too hard to create considering that Corey Seager will be shifted to the 60-day disabled list soon. Ryu is another option to move to the 60-day DL at some point down the road.
34-year-old journeyman Guillermo Moscoso has moved into the rotation at OKC, having recently thrown six innings of shutout ball against Memphis on Thursday night. 30-year-old Justin DeFratus is another veteran option. The righty began the season at Tulsa and after being promoted to OKC in mid-April, making his first 2018 Triple-A start against Round Rock three weeks ago. 27-year-old southpaw Tyler Pill and 26-year-old righty Alec Asher are the other memebers of the OKC rotation. None of these pitchers—besides Stewart—are on the organization’s 40-man roster.
One of the dark-horse options for big league action could be 22-year-old righty flamethrower Dennis Santana, who has emerged as the ace of the Double-A Tulsa rotation. He’s on a strict pitch count so far this season, though, not having thrown more than 80 pitches during any of his six starts. Over an even 28 innings of work this year, he has posted a 2.25 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and an outstanding 11.89 K/9. Santana is on the 40-man, and if he doesn’t see any time beforehand, will almost certainly be recalled for some type of action when rosters expand in early September.
One other longshot option is right-handed swing man Tom Koehler, who was sent to the disabled list in late March with a shoulder capsule injury. The 31-year-old Bronx native made 12 starts for the Marlins in 2017 before being shifted to the bullpen after being acquired by the Blue Jays after the trade deadline. Koehler will be eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list at the end of May.
The target date for a return from 21-year-old lefty Julio Urias still appears to be sometime in July.