Although the performance of the bullpen is certainly fresh in the minds of fans after Friday evening’s disappointing loss, the consistency of the Dodgers‘ starting rotation will still be one of the determining factors of how far the team goes this year.
Indeed, the first five arms in the Los Angeles rotation has already taken on a different look from Opening Day, as it seemingly continues to change with each passing game.
The primary focus right now seems to be on Clayton Kershaw and how he pitches in his 2020 debut. The veteran lefty will be activated on Sunday to throw in the finale against the Diamondbacks after having been on the injured list due to back tightness.
The mild injury, which was sustained in the weight room just days before the opener, normally wouldn’t be much concern for a starting pitcher, but Kershaw’s history with back problems definitely creates a bit of skepticism looking ahead. If CK performs successfully, the rotation should show signs of stability, at least from an experience and leadership standpoint.
Dustin May, who initially took Kershaw’s turn in the rotation, appears poised to stay in the starting mix in light of Alex Wood‘s shoulder injury. Tony Gonsolin, after starting Friday night’s contest in Arizona, was optioned back to camp on Saturday morning in favor of young righty Mitchell White.
At the moment, thanks to a stellar bullpen (prior to Friday), the Dodgers’ pitching staff is ranked first overall in baseball as far as ERA goes with an impressive 2.04 mark. From a starting pitching perspective, they’re ranked sixth in the majors and fourth in the National League with a 3.03 ERA, trailing the Padres, Cubs and Rockies.
Eight games into the season, May and Ross Stripling are the only starting pitchers who have taken two turns in the rotation.
With regards to the next handful of games, lefty Julio Urias takes the hill on Saturday after garnering a no-decision against the Giants in his season debut last week. Following the Kershaw start on Sunday, righty Walker Buehler is slated to throw the opener in San Diego on Monday.
The Dodgers have not committed to a set rotation schedule past Monday, but it might be safe to assume that May throws on Tuesday and Stripling in the finale against the Padres on Wednesday.
Conceivably, whether the Dodgers shop for a top-of-the-line, quality starting pitcher before the upcoming August 31 trade deadline will depend on two factors—overall health and the effectiveness of the youngsters, specifically May.
While it’s certainly too soon to piece together a possible playoff rotation—if the Dodgers do indeed advance—the fact that there are only 52 games left in the season creates a higher sense of urgency.