Dodgers 25-Man Roster: Rethinking the Bullpen & Starting Rotation

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(Los Angeles Times photo)

The good news is that the Dodgers have strung together three consecutive wins for the first time in what seems like a very, very long time. The bad news is that the club has suffered yet another injury to an already battered starting rotation.

Veteran lefty Rich Hill‘s biggest nemesis since arriving to Los Angeles has been a recurring blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand, and it has once again resurfaced. The 38-year-old left the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader in Washington after throwing just two pitches. And this time around, Hill may be on the shelf for an extended period of time.

“This is as bad as I’ve seen it,” skipper Dave Roberts said in the post game.

But as detrimental as the news sounds, it could be a blessing in disguise, mainly because Hill has been borderline horrible on the bump this season, whether the blister has been a factor in his overall performance or not. In six starts, he has tallied a 6.20 ERA, a 6.39 FIP and a 1.74 WHIP, numbers which could conceivably be improved upon by giving a promising farmhand a look or two.

As it stands now, three-fifths of the original starting rotation is out for an extended period of time, as southpaw Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda are the last men standing. Rookie Walker Buehler has deservedly cemented a spot in the starting rotation, as has swing man Ross Stripling, who, at the moment, may be throwing better than anyone in the entire group.

But Hill’s latest blister episode creates another opening in the rotation, which could theoretically go to either lefty Manny Banuelos or righty flamethrower Dennis Santana.

Banuelos has struggled lately, having surrendered five earned runs on eight hits in five innings against Memphis on May 9, then four earned runs on six hits in just three innings against Colorado Springs last Monday.

Santana, fresh off a promotion to Triple-A this weekend, threw six shutout innings while striking out a career-high 11 batters to register the victory against Nashville on Saturday night. And as a matter of convenience, Santana’s slot at Oklahoma City falls directly in line with Hill’s big league slot.

The probable arm which slides into the fifth slot, though, is that of righty Brock Stewart, who recently started against Nashville on Thursday, going three innings and surrendering three hits and no runs.

For all intents and purposes, there’s no reason to expect a miracle from any one of these guys in the bigs, but for the sake of the club, if any one of the three could respectively hold down the fort until ace Clayton Kershaw is well enough to start, the team will have avoided a huge hurdle.

So, as far as a rotation goes, we’re looking at a quintet of Wood, Maeda, Buehler, Stripling and whomever the club decides as the fifth starter, which is likely Stewart. It’s certainly not an overly appealing crew by any means, yet with a bit of timely hitting from the offense, it may be able to hold it’s own until the summer months arrive.

The problems aren’t just in the rotation, either. Pundits have been shouldering much of the Dodgers’ misfortunes on the bullpen all season long, and as time progresses, a few arms are beginning to emerge as the clear-cut sour apples of the group.

Righty Daniel Hudson has been downright dreadful. For as impatient as the team was with Wilmer Font, it’s surprising that Hudson has been around this long. The 31-year-old righty still has an ERA north of 6.00 and a FIP above 5.00. He has inherited seven runners and has only stranded three of those seven. While there are seemingly lefties galore on the fringe, there’s no doubt in my mind that somebody like Adam Liberatore, who is currently on the OKC roster, is a much better option than Hudson.

And speaking of lefties, after being lights out for the first few weeks of the season, Tony Cingrani just isn’t the same. Since April 13, he has tallied an 11.17 ERA, having surrendered 12 earned runs on 13 hits and five walks in just 9-2/3 innings of work. Whether it’s attributed to some sort of injury or if he’s simply reverting to his days in Cincinnati remains to be seen.

Furthermore, with Stripling’s presence in the starting rotation, the relief corps is even weaker. The fact that the team scooped up somebody like Erik Goeddel from the scrap heap and moved him directly to the 25-man shows just how desperate the relief crew is for quality arms.

The overwhelming depth that the Dodgers were once believed to possess is running out very quickly. With the front office handcuffed by their commitment to remain under the luxury tax threshold for 2018, we may see some creative moves to help improve the pitching staff over the coming weeks. If not, fans may be in for another dose of unwelcome disappointment.

 

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4 thoughts on “Dodgers 25-Man Roster: Rethinking the Bullpen & Starting Rotation

  1. Dodgers are better off jettisoning Hill at this point. I think father time has finally caught up to him because those blister issues are not going away anytime soon (heard they started cropping up the very moment he developed that wipeout curveball a few years back). I’m ready to see what either Banuelos or Stewart can do in the meantime. I also tuned in to Santana’s AAA OKC start yesterday and that was the best outing he’s had this season to date. 11 Ks, ZERO BBs (!), and no runs allowed on just 86 pitches thru 6 innings!?!?!? This guy was originally a middle infielder for cryin’ out loud and has already blown past Yadier Alvarez on the prospect depth chart this year! Yup, he’s gonna be in the pen when rosters expand in September if not sooner than that. As for Husdon, I think he’s toast. I mean the velocity’s still there, but the command hasn’t been. Let Goeddel take his spot for a change and see what he has to offer. I still feel Cingrani will recover from whatever’s been causing that “dead arm” issue of late, but he might need to go on a rehab stint just as a precaution.

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    1. Anyone know how many pitches the average reliever throws in the pen before coming into a game vs how many pitches a starter throws before beginning the game? Maybe Hill’s future is in the pen if there is a decent difference in the amount of warmup pitches thrown. I believe they still owe him over 25 mil so they won’t just toss him away without trying to get some value. Santana looks amazing. Just hope he keeps it up and we’ll certainly see him in September (or sooner if our pitchers keep going down with injuries). I think pretty much everyone has passed Alvarez on the prospect depth chart at this point. Cingrani seemed to fall off a cliff from one game to the next. I’m still guessing injury of some sort. If he needs a rehab stint, they would first need to DL him again unless he has options remaining. Hudson seems like the weakest link in a very weak chain at this point. Seems to me that Yimi or Lib would be of more help right now.

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  2. Hill’s troubles should come as no surprise to anyone. He had blister issues when he came here. If an old guy is going to spin the ball with that much pressure he better figure out a way to do it without tearing the skin off his finger. And if you are going to give that old soft fingered spinner $48 million you better have a plan to make that middle finger leather like. Obviously they don’t. And putting him in the bullpen won’t solve anything. After warming up this time he didn’t get an out before leaving.

    I don’t know what the answer to that problem is but the question I have is – are you going to continue this model of searching for and signing pitchers with obvious health issues? If so, you better get better at staffing the bullpen. And how do you do that with no money? You trade assets, or you use assets.

    Frankly I suspect they will do neither, instead holding the course they have steered since they arrived in October of ‘14. I stand ready for more Beachy’s, Hudson’s and Font’s. Maybe we get lucky and find a Morrow. Guess we’ll see.

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    1. For some reason, it still bugs me a little that they pickup Goeddel, a guy who was recently DFA’d by SEATTLE, and move him right into the heart of the big league pen. Friedman’s philosophy has always been to build the relief corps the way you have mentioned, and I think this is the year those theories are finally backfiring in the worst kind of ways.

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