Dodgers Bullpen Picture Becomes Clearer, Yet Some Uncertainty Still Lingers

With less than seven days remaining before the Dodgers commence their 2017 regular season campaign, both the media and the fans were given a roster clue of sorts on Monday afternoon, when skipper Dave Roberts indicated that Brandon McCarthy and Alex Wood were both still in competition for the fourth spot in the rotation, but whoever misses out on the starting slot will have a place in the big league bullpen.

Moments before the statement, Roberts announced that 29-year-old lefty Hyun-jin Ryu has secured the fifth spot in the Dodgers’ starting rotation.

Both McCarthy and Wood are starters by pedigree, but McCarthy seems to be the logical choice for the rotation based on his current skill set. Besides working strictly as a middle reliever for the White Sox in 2006, McCarthy doesn’t have much bullpen experience, outside of one showing against the Giants last September when he surrendered six runs on five hits and a walk without recording an out. That particular outing, as dreadful as it was, was the beginning of the end for the 33-year-old righty, who was never able to regain control of his mechanics and delivery for the remainder of the season.

Wood, on the other hand, has found success in relief as recently as last year. The 26-year-old southpaw persevered through elbow rehab and went on to make four impressive relief appearances of shutout ball down the stretch of the 2016 regular season, ultimately earning a bullpen spot on the NLCS roster against the Cubs in October.

Whatever route the management crew of the Dodgers decides to take, though, the inclusion of Wood or McCarthy in the bullpen seemingly pushes somebody else out, unless the club decides to carry eight relievers, which isn’t likely.

The first thought to come to mind Monday evening was righty Ross Stripling, who has options, but was still projected by numerous models to have nailed down a spot as a long man. However, on Tuesday morning the team announced that Brandon Morrow will not be included on the Opening Day 25-man roster. Morrow, who appeared to be healthy and throwing well, is attempting to continue his comeback after missing more than 18 months with a severe shoulder injury that originally occurred back in 2015.

Another possibility that has stirred recently is the omission of veteran righty Chris Hatcher. The 32-year-old Hatcher has made 12 appearances so far this spring, having compiled a 7.27 ERA after surrendering 11 runs and 13 hits — three of which were long balls — over 8-2/3 innings of work. Despite the ugly numbers, many think that he’ll be given a fair shot into the regular season, mainly because of his guaranteed one-year contract which he was tendered last December.

Theoretically, Grant Dayton still has plenty of options, but it’s hard to imagine him not being included on the 25-man roster, as many pundits believe he’ll ultimately emerge as the Dodgers’ second or third best overall relief option once all the relievers settle into their principal roles.

So assuming Wood joins the relief crew, he’ll be accompanied by fellow southpaws Luis Avilan — who has no options — and Dayton. Barring injury, Kenley Jansen and Sergio Romo will headline the entire crew, which leaves two final spots that presumably go to Hatcher and Stripling. All that being said, it relegates a few quality arms, most specifically Adam Liberatore and Josh Fields, to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

More importantly, because Wood and Stripling will not be properly stretched out, it limits their abilities to make a lengthy start in an emergency situation, should the need arise. That leaves youngster Trevor Oaks to headline the rotation at OKC, at least until Brock Stewart is ready, and may be the first to get the call when an injury occurs at the major league level.

Subsequently, lefty Julio Urias will assume a spot in the big league rotation at some point, most likely being activated sometime towards the beginning of May.

In the meantime, Wood will start one of Tuesday’s split-squad contests against the Reds at Goodyear, while McCarthy will be in line for a quick tuneup at some point during the Freeway Series this weekend.

As always, be sure to check back in frequently for any news and updates, as the management crew of the Dodgers will likely continue to reveal more hints surrounding the prospective roster in the final days leading up to Opening Day.




Dodgers 25-Man Roster: More Thoughts About the Starting Rotation Competition

Heading into the weekend, skipper Dave Roberts insisted that the battle for the final two spots in the Dodgers‘ starting rotation remained open to four pitchers — Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Alex Wood and Scott Kazmir. However, after Kazmir’s attempt to gain leverage in the race by facing the Rangers on Sunday, it’s probably safe to assume the competition has been narrowed to three.

The original plan was for Kaz to take a stab at lasting a full five innings, but in the end, the veteran southpaw was only able to endure three frames of work while throwing 66 pitches. In all, he allowed three hits, including a home run off the bat of Mike Napoli, and three earned runs. Kazmir also walked five batters, hit another and threw one wild pitch. And the worst part was that his heater topped out at only 87 MPH, mostly sitting in the 82-84 range. After his outing, he was seen in the Dodgers’ bullpen “dry” throwing — obviously trying anything possible in hopes of rediscovering his mechanics. At the end of the day, some type of stint on the disabled list seems to be certain for the lefty, at least at the very beginning of the season.

In the meantime, McCarthy, who now appears to have a stronghold on the No. 4 spot in the rotation, faced a much easier task on Sunday, trying to stretch his workload to a full six innings in a simulated setting on the back fields at Camelback Ranch. After the sim game, McCarthy will likely throw in one more shortened tune-up later next week to make his final preparations for the regular season.

Looking ahead to Monday, Ryu seemingly controls his own destiny in the battle for the No. 5 spot, as he will try to complete five full innings of work against the White Sox. So far during 2017 Cactus League play, the 29-year-old native of South Korea has thrown nine full innings over three appearances, surrendering only five hits and one earned run while striking out a total of eight opposing batters. If he survives Monday’s affair looking sharp and feeling healthy, he’ll surely get the nod over Wood, who appears to be destined to open the season as the headliner in the Oklahoma City rotation.

An important thing to remember about Ryu is that according to his contract, he can refuse any assignment to the minors or extended spring training. So if he isn’t headed to the disabled list for whatever reason, he’s pretty much guaranteed a spot on the big league 25-man roster.

Starting Wood at OKC makes sense, mainly because he has plenty of options remaining on his contract. Since he has already proven himself to throw effectively in relief, though, he could be an option for the bullpen, especially if the Dodgers decide to begin the season with an eight-man relief corps. But keeping in mind the injury pedigrees of Rich Hill, Ryu and McCarthy, it may be logical to have Wood stretched out as a starter, waiting for the phone to ring at Oklahoma City when a need arises on the big league roster. And that need will indeed come, perhaps sooner rather than later.

As for the remainder of the week, Wood will throw against the Reds and lefty Julio Urias will start against the Padres in split-squad games on Tuesday, while resident ace Clayton Kershaw will make his final appearance of the spring against the Mariners on Wednesday.



Dodgers Starting Rotation: How Can Alex Wood Secure a 25-Man Roster Spot?

(Mandatory Credit: Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, just moments after we began a pessimistic discussion about the state of the Dodgers prospective rotation, lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu took the bump against the Brewers and fired four solid innings of one-hit, shutout ball, making a clear argument for himself to be considered among the starting pitching crew when Opening Day rolls around on April 3.

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All of a Sudden, the Dodgers Starting Rotation Doesn’t Seem So Deep

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For many fans of the Dodgers, it’s beginning to become an annual occurrence — overwhelming optimism about a stacked rotation in the winter, eventually turning into genuine concern about the prospective starting pitching crew as Opening Day draws near. What was once a highly talented staff extending to the rafters at Triple-A Oklahoma City now has a few gray areas even at the big league level.

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How Does Dodgers’ Starting Rotation Stack Up to Others Around Baseball?

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As a whole, quite a few factors will determine how the starting rotation of the Dodgers compares to those of others around baseball as the 2017 campaign progresses. First and foremost, good health is particularly critical, while overall stamina and endurance will also play key roles in the team’s prosperity. The presence of resident ace Clayton Kershaw probably warrants a Top 20 MLB ranking in itself, yet without the luxury of a true No. 2 starter, the Dodgers slide somewhere right in the middle of the Top 10, at least in the eyes of most informed fans.

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Dodgers Starting Rotation: Progressions, More Predictions & Other Random Notes

(Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

With the arrival of Opening Day now hovering right around the three week mark, much of the fan focus has steadied on the prospective starting rotation of the Dodgers, as each passing day seemingly has one small happening or event which somehow affects the future makeup of the pitching staff.

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Dodgers Roster: Outlining the Battles that Could Go Down to the Wire

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Now that a full week has passed since the Dodgers began their 2017 Cactus League campaign, we thought it may be a good time to revisit several of the roster battles that we’ve been discussing since the squad began taking shape earlier in the winter.

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Early Signs Could Be Pointing Towards Dodgers’ Opening Day Rotation Plans

(Mandatory Credit: Chris Carlson/Associated Press)

Five weeks is a whole lot of time. But even though there’s still more than a month of Cactus League play to help the management crew of the Dodgers answer questions about the club’s prospective 25-man roster, early revelations in camp may be indicating the current pattern of thinking when it comes to the team’s starting pitching hierarchy.

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Projecting the 2017 Starting Rotation at Oklahoma City

(Mandatory Credit: Kurt Steiss/The Oklahoman)

Even though the best available arms at Oklahoma City will undeniably be called upon more than once during the upcoming campaign, if the big league starting rotation of the Dodgers somehow stays relatively healthy for the majority of the season, the projected Triple-A rotation certainly has both the required talent and potential to be among the most elite in recent history.

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Dodgers Roster: Constructing a Workable Starting Rotation for 2017

(AFP Photo/Denis Poroy)

While there’s definitely enough time for the front office crew of the Dodgers to sneak in another roster addition or two before the beginning of spring training, the starting pitching department probably isn’t an area on the agenda to upgrade, as management is already challenged with the task of selecting a group of five pitchers to form a rotation from potentially ten or so healthy arms.

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