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

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.

But there’s no reason to panic just yet. There may be enough arms to go around and provide adequate cover, even if youngsters Julio Urias and Ross Stripling aren’t yet stretched out properly to make a possible emergency start or two, if the need should arise.

The good news is that resident ace Clayton Kershaw appears to be fully healthy and throwing well. And Kenta Maeda, who supposedly took a substantial pay cut because of medical issues when signing two winters ago, is poised to once again be a rotation stalwart and exceed the 30-start mark. What’s more, lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu may have finally found his mojo, boxing up his injury history and burying it in the past. Then there’s this 23-year-old sinkerball prospect named Trevor Oaks who impresses pundits with each appearance he makes, while continuing to climb the organizational ladder at a very rapid pace.

The bad news is that Brock Stewart, who was presumably in the competition for a rotation spot early in spring training, is still shut down with shoulder soreness and will likely need to re-establish his arm strength from square one. Scott Kazmir has apparently lost a ton of velocity and has been relegated to bullpen sessions to work on his mechanics. And just yesterday, Brandon McCarthy, who conceivably lines up as the No. 4 starter in the current projected rotation, has requested to appear in a minor league game in his next turn to facilitate his chances of getting through five full innings of work.

In addition to McCarthy’s previous health woes, because of his own injury history, veteran lefty Rich Hill hasn’t made more than 20 appearances in a season since he was a middle reliever with the Indians in 2013. The same can be said lately for southpaw Alex Wood, who only made 14 starts last year after logging 20 or more per season in his first three big league campaigns with the Braves. One can hope for good fortune, but the chances for several instances of impairment to occur between the three over the next seven months could be relatively high.

As it stands now, barring injury, the Dodgers are likely to run out Kersh, Maeda, Hill, McCarthy and Wood, in that order. If one of those five is unable to go, Ryu probably gets the early nod, otherwise staying back at Glendale or starting the year on a shortened minor league assignment. Subsequently, if there is any further sign of poor health, the team probably will begin to stretch out Urías and Stripling, or even temporarily bump Oaks into the 40-man to make a spot start. Indications were that Urías would begin the year in extended spring training, but surely such a plan would be deviated if there was indeed a pressing need. All that being said, and as negative as it sounds, it’s still very much manageable.

In the meantime, fans of the Dodgers everywhere, in addition to the Los Angeles management crew and training staff, will keep their fingers crossed in hopes of the club maintaining good health through the remainder of the Cactus League schedule.

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In other injury news, an MRI administered on Monday showed a mild disc herniation for veteran outfielder Andre Ethier. After being given an epidural, Ethier will be shut down for a period of 7-10 days. Manager Dave Roberts didn’t want to close the door on Ethier making the Opening Day roster, but indicated that “It’s going to be tough.”

Ethier’s absence would presumably create a roster opportunity for Andrew Toles, who could conceivably slide into a platoon scenario in left field with the right-handed hitting Franklin Gutierrez.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

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Dodgers Injury Notes: Corey Seager, Andre Ethier, Pedro Baez & More

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(Mandatory Credit: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

While last week’s injury report brought on a bit of concern from many fans of the Dodgers, the outlook for this week is much better, as the two-week mark before the season opener is quickly approaching and the projected 25-man roster becomes a bit more defined.

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

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(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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Projecting the 2017 Starting Rotation at Oklahoma City

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(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

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(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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A Preliminary Projection of Oklahoma City’s 2017 Starting Rotation

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(Photo Credit: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

When we initially decided to take our first look at the Oklahoma City rotation at this point last year, all spots were seemingly up for grabs, with nine different pitchers contending for starting slots at the highest level on the Dodgers‘ farm. The big league pitching staff was still in rough shape, as the front office crew was working diligently to finalize deals with veteran lefty Scott Kazmir and Japanese sensation Kenta Maeda as the final days of 2015 dwindled away.

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Dodgers’ Rookies Admirably Filling Void in Starting Rotation

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(Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

If there’s one department that has been inconsistently consistent for the Dodgers over the course of the 2016 season, it’s undoubtedly the starting pitching rotation.

It was only towards the end of last winter, just shortly after the club signed Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda, that many fans were calling for a trade of Alex Wood because of the rotation being overcrowded. Resident ace Clayton Kershaw would be the headliner while southpaw Brett Anderson brought up the rear. Sandwiched in between would be Kazmir and Maeda, along with lefty Hyun-jin Ryu, who, at the time, was throwing well and poised to join the rotation by Opening Day.

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Dodgers’ Rotation Projections vs. Phillies and Reds

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(Photo Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

After a rough go of sorts for the starting rotation against the Pirates last weekend at home, the Dodgers head eastbound to begin the Philadelphia series with their two healthiest and most productive stalwarts. Although the forecast appears to be a bit blurry after the first two games of the set, things may not be all that gloomy once the club makes a few decisions and the dust settles.

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Dodgers Recall Stewart, Reconstruct Battered Bullpen

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(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports)

Expected to make a number of roster moves heading into Wednesday’s contest at Colorado, the Dodgers recalled righty Brock Stewart, who will take the hill in a spot-start, left-hander Julio Urias and right-handed reliever Josh Fields, officially announcing the transactions just several hours before the first pitch.

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Who’s Next in Line for a Dodgers’ Rotation Spot?

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While the day for needing a fifth starting pitcher in the rotation is quickly approaching, the Dodgers felt a brief scare in their victory over Arizona on Sunday when righty Bud Norris exited his start after just 13 pitches in the top of the first inning.

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