Considering the way right-handers Ross Stripling and Walker Buehler have thrown in recent outings, the Dodgers could conceivably have a few tough decisions on their hands should they find all of their available starting pitchers healthy at some point down the road.
Over his last three starts, Stripling has 26 strikeouts and no walks in 18 innings of work. On the season, he is 2-1 with a 1.74 ERA, having tallied 50 strikeouts and nine walks in 41-1/3 innings. On Friday evening, he once again reached double-digits in punchouts, having fanned 10 batters over 6-2/3 innings. His ERA is currently third in the NL among pitchers with at least 40 innings.
In his last start on Monday night, the 23-year-old Buehler allowed just one run on two hits with no walks and six strikeouts over seven strong innings, but his start was wasted after the bullpen surrendered the lead an inning later. Still, his overall numbers are extremely impressive. In six starts, he has a 2.38 ERA and a 2.40 FIP over an even 34 innings with 40 strikeouts—not quite as good as Stripling, but certainly much better than any other of the Dodgers starters, active or injured.
“Walker and Ross, out of spring training, were sixth and seventh on the depth chart,” skipper Dave Roberts said after Friday’s 2-1 victory over the Padres. “For those guys to play huge roles and keep us where we’re at says a lot about those guys, and the organization.”
But it may go beyond Strip and Buehler stepping into their new roles and performing well. Many pundits believe that both have thrown strong enough to remain in the rotation, even all the other starters are available and healthy.
However, as we all know, the injury carousel has its own way of balancing itself out. In addition, it’s no secret that the management crew often likes to use the disabled list to give the club’s pitchers rest periods during the regular season to ensure they’re at full strength for a potential playoff run.
Staff ace Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Saturday. If everything goes well, there’s a good chance he’ll slot back into the rotation and start Thursday against the Phillies. It’s probably safe to assume that Kersh will displace righty swing man Brock Stewart on the 25-man roster.
And if that weren’t enough, it appears as though right-hander Kenta Maeda is also in a groove of his own. Over his last two starts, Maeda has tossed an even 14 innings of shutout ball, having surrendered no runs on just four hits while striking out 20 batters.
With CK back in the mix, it will give the Dodgers a starting five of Kershaw, Maeda, Stripling, Buehler and Alex Wood. When assessing how the latter four have been throwing lately as a group, the quartet is arguably one of the best on the Senior Circuit, if not both leagues.
In theory, lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu is eyeing a return sometime in July, although at this point that’s only a guesstimate. Furthermore, in a similar time frame, southpaw Julio Urias may be close to returning to the mound. And while veteran southpaw Rich Hill has stated that his ailing blister has apparently healed, Roberts is sticking to his initial timetable of approximately four weeks, as the club has no reason at all to rush Hill back, especially when considering the way Strip and Buehler are throwing right now.
Whatever happens when Hill is healthy enough to pitch remains to be seen. Some believe the southpaw may be an option for a middle relief role; however, by the time that day arrives, the landscape of the rotation may have a completely different perspective in terms of who’s healthy and who’s not.
In the meantime, Wood is set to start the middle game of the three-game set on Saturday evening. He’ll be opposed by San Diego right-hander Jordan Lyles. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Los Angeles time.