Manager Dave Roberts said at the weekend that starter Clayton Kershaw is probably out until September, which might give us a bit of hope he could return for a prospective playoff run. Tony Gonsolin has not even picked up a baseball since being shut down with a shoulder issue on July 31, suggesting the worst.
As it stands, the Los Angeles rotation consists of Scherzer, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and David Price, along with whomever Roberts appoints as the opener for the fifth game. In a perfect world, a healthy Kershaw would join Scherzer and Buehler in a trio for a short playoff series, but there’s still a ton of work to do before the Dodgers even get to that point.
The newly signed Cole Hamels threw one inning in a simulated session on Saturday, but the feeling is the veteran probably won’t even be close to a major league start until he can comfortably get five innings under his belt. Aside from one outing with the Braves last year, it’s essentially been two years since Hamels has contributed consistently in the majors.
Another newcomer, 32-year-old southpaw Danny Duffy, could be a more realistic option, but there’s no estimate when he’ll join the team, as he’s still recovering from a flexor strain in his elbow. If the team intends on using Duffy as a starter, it could take longer to stretch him out, although using the 6-foot-3 Goleta native as an opener or a swing man is certainly on the table.
“I feel like this last week I turned the corner a little bit physically,” Duffy said recently. “I’ve been told anywhere from late August to early September, depending on the role, which I’m unaware of so far.”
The Dodgers signed 30-year-old righty Nick Tropeano to a minor league deal last week, but he still has yet to make an appearance. Triple-A Oklahoma City has Tropeano listed on its active roster.
Perhaps a better choice is 23-year-old Ryan Pepiot, especially if the bullpen continues to be overused. The team trusts Scherzer and Buehler to eat a reasonable number of innings, but Urias lasted just an even five innings in Saturday’s victory, while Price went 5-1/3 frames in the loss on Friday.
Regardless, Pepiot made his last start for Oklahoma City Monday and is will throw again against Albuquerque on Sunday. Across two levels of the farm this year, the Indianapolis native is 2-2 with a 2.92 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, an impressive .147 BAA and 88 strikeouts over 14 starts and 64-2/3 innings.
According to MLB Pipeline, Pepiot is the fifth best prospect in the system and the second-best pitching prospect behind 22-year-old righty Bobby Miller.
MLB Pipeline says Pepiot’s changeup “is a legitimate weapon that he sells with fastball arm speed, only to have it arrive at the plate in the low 80s with a ton of fade. After working at 91-94 MPH and touching 96 with high spin rates on his fastball in 2019, he sat at 93-96 with increased vertical movement in shorter stints last year. His low-80s slider got sharper, and he also used his upper-70s curveball to get early-count strikes.”
Pepiot is not on the organization’s 40-man roster, but when considering how fluid it’s been lately, it shouldn’t be too difficult finding him a spot, especially if Gonsolin ends up on the 60-day injured list.