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The Two Most Important Issues for Dodgers in Second Half of Season

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves on the brink of the second half of the season. The MLB 2021 Trade Deadline is quickly approaching. The team is still in second place in the NL West. What can fans expect in the months to come?

There are two things that are most important as the Dodgers continue their quest to win back-to-back World Series — their starting rotation and winning the NL West division.

As they begin the second half, the Dodgers only have two starters from the beginning of the season healthy, Walker Buehler and Julio Urías. Buehler will no doubt be the anchor to this rotation for the rest of the season and going into the postseason.

Urías has been very good so far this season, currently tied for most wins in the majors. But he has had some less than stellar outings, and at 106.2 innings, has already pitched more than he has in any season in the big leagues. But the Dodgers were slow to build him up in previous years, and they will need him to be able to continue to eat innings.

Clayton Kershaw finds himself currently on the 10-day injured list with inflammation in his left forearm. He is, however, expected to make a return to the Dodgers starting rotation in the next week week or two.

Trevor Bauer has seen his administrative leave extended by another two weeks while being investigated for sexual assault allegations. It is unclear if he will ever or should ever return to the Dodgers. He has a protection from abuse order against him from the woman he allegedly assaulted. Bauer has a court date of July 23.

Dustin May had to have Tommy John surgery on his right arm in the beginning of May and will be out until at least the end of next season.

All of these circumstances have left the Dodgers with a lot of bullpen games. Tony Gonsolin returned from the injured list to become a starter again, but has only been able to make it through three to four innings, with his longest outing so far being 5.1 innings on July 6 against the Miami Marlins.

David Price, who expected to be mostly used out of the bullpen, is now being built up for a return to the starting rotation. But so far, the longest he has pitched in a game is 3.0 innings, which was in his last outing before the All-Star break.

As such, with all these circumstances, the Dodgers find themselves with work to do before the trade deadline. Once the deepest rotation in baseball, they find themselves with three and a half starters. What avenue will the Dodgers take – making a big splash at the deadline? Bring up some help from Triple-A Oklahoma City like Josiah Gray or Ryan Pepiot? Gray will be starting Thursday night in OKC and has pitched six scoreless innings since his return from his injury. Or will they just employ a wait-and-see approach?

The Dodgers will need a starting rotation to be at full strength down the stretch because the NL West is seemingly going to go down to the wire. The San Diego Padres have also been hit with a rash of injuries lately and may not end up factoring in the divisional race. But they will most likely end up in the Wild Card race.

If the season ended today, the San Francisco Giants would be in first place, and the Dodgers and the Padres would have a one game playoff to decide who would play the Giants as the first place seed. While one could easily see Buehler being the Wild Card starter and shoving the team to a win, one always wants to be the team in the position of power and having home field advantage, hence the important of a divisional crown.

The next few weeks will be key in how the rest of the Dodgers season plays out. It should be interesting to say the least.

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