On Saturday night, fans, coaches, managers, and players of the Los Angeles Dodgers reveled in a 22-run outburst against the lowly Diamondbacks, once again showing how schizophrenic the offense can be from one night to the next. On the pitching front, not only was Walker Buehler effective, but he also gave his bullpen somewhat of a rest by going six full innings. However, despite productive games like these, it still doesn’t solve the club’s current starting pitching dilemma.
You’ve probably heard the narrative a hundred times by now — from the eight or so pitchers the Dodgers had available at spring training to build a five-man a starting rotation, only three are available right now. Tony Gonsolin is stretching out more and more (having gone 5-1/3 innings in his latest outing against the Marlins), but he’s still probably considered more of a swing man until he gets a few quality starts under his belt.
Even with the eventual return of Clayton Kershaw from the injured list, the team will still need at least one or two additional starters during the second half of the year, if only to reduce the workload of the burdened relief corps. Trevor Bauer’s future remains uncertain, so it is unwise for the club to bank on any prospective return at this point.
In my column last weekend, I discussed the options of using David Price and Jimmy Nelson as swing men or starters long before the Kershaw injury. Since that time, Nelson has gone on the injured list with a back issue, but considering how well he has stepped up as a reliever this season, moving him out of the bullpen may have been an unwise move anyway.
Price got the nod as the opener against the Diamondbacks on Friday, throwing three full shutout innings while allowing four hits and a walk with three punchouts. The three innings was his longest outing of the year, and the 51 pitches were the most he’s thrown in a game since tossing 50 against the Cardinals back in early June.
Looking ahead, it seems as if Price is at least a temporary part of the starting rotation plans:
For Price to have an immediate impact, management and coaches will need to take a much faster track in stretching him out than they’re doing with Gonsolin.
Ryan Pepiot or Josiah Gray
So far this year, the 23-year-old Pepiot has gone 3-2 with a sparkling 1.77 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP with 63 strikeouts over 10 starts and 45-2/3 innings. His heater tops out as high as 95-96, but Pepiot’s bread and butter is his changeup, which he sells brilliantly with fastball arm speed. Pepiot last threw on Saturday, going an even four innings against Springfield while surrendering one run on three walks and six punchouts.
Depending on where you look, Gray, also 23 years old, is ranked anywhere in the top three of most of the Dodgers’ prospect lists. Gray was on the shelf for more than a month with shoulder issues, but he made his return last week with a successful two inning stint for Triple-A OKC against Salt Lake. In his latest outing Saturday, he went full four shutout innings, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out four on 53 pitches.
Neither Pepiot or Gray are on the 40-man roster right now, but it probably wouldn’t be too difficult creating space when considering the current landscape of the team.
Recently, I put together a column discussing the idea that the Dodgers are scouting 37-year-old veteran Cole Hamels as a possible starting rotation option. Los Angeles and several other clubs will be on hand to watch Hamels throw at a showcase next week in Texas. Since we’re well beyond the halfway point of the season, Hamels might be likely to make a quick decision. However, one must wonder if Hamels would be looking for a contract that would encompass the 2022 season as well.
Obviously, it’s highly doubtful that Hamels return to the pitcher who propelled the Philles to a World Series championship back in 2008, but if the Dodgers inked the southpaw, the primary reason would be to eat innings, alleviating the workload of the bullpen in the process.
2021 MLB Trade Deadline
With the summer trade deadline now less than three weeks away, most of the news in the baseball blogosphere has shifted towards all the trade rumors floating around. In previous stories, we’ve discussed trade possibilities anywhere from Max Scherzer to Jon Gray to Kyle Gibson.
Indeed, the Dodgers probably won’t be exclusively seeking starting pitching before the deadline, as the front-office crew will be keeping its eyes peeled for quality relievers as well. Should Price happen to stick in the starting rotation, it will be super-critical to fill his role as a long man in relief.
Either way, if you’re a betting person, it’s probably safe to lay a little money down on the idea that the Los Angeles player roster will be looking a bit different by the time the calendar turns over to August.