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 Cactus League Notes: Kershaw, Ethier, Seager, Urías, Buehler & More

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The countdown is on — just two weeks until the Dodgers open up the season against the San Diego Padres. Clayton Kershaw will be the starter that day, but on his last start he looked less than Kershaw-like. Kersh allowed three home runs, four runs total on six hits in five innings. He also had eight strikeouts and two walks.

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

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(Mandatory Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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

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

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(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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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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Christmas Wrapping

(There is no rhyme or reason for this song title, except for the lyrics ‘get this winter over with!’ as we are looking forward to baseball, and baseball news.  That, and I like it.)

“Calendar picture. Frozen landscape,
Chill this room for twenty-four days.
Evergreens. Sparkling snow.
Get this winter over with!”

~The Waitresses

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A Very Preliminary Guess at the Dodgers’ 2017 Starting Rotation

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Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

With the way the injury bug devastatingly ripped into the Dodgers‘ 2016 pitching staff, it’s almost futile to even make a generalized guess at a working rotation before the winter months fall upon us. However, just for the sake of having a starting point and an impetus into November, we thought a cursory list may be worthwhile if only to create a perspective for discussion during the Hot Stove season.

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Dodgers Turn to Kenta Maeda in Critical Game 5

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(Photo Credit: Kyodo/The Japan Times)

While the Dodgers hope to move forward and put the bad dream of Game 4 behind them, the players will need to harness every ounce of offensive energy they can at the dish and on the bases, as southpaw Jon Lester takes the bump for the Cubs in hopes of putting his club back in control when the NLCS moves back to Chicago.

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Kershaw, Dodgers Hope to Secure Victory in Game 2 at Wrigley

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(Photo Credit: Rich Kane/UPI)

For some strange reason, many fans of the Dodgers weren’t overly optimistic about a positive outcome at the beginning of Game 1 on Saturday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. After all, the Boys in Blue must have been close to exhaustion after laying everything on the line in Game 5 of the NLDS just two days prior, without an opportunity for even a short layover at home. Plus, southpaw Jon Lester had been sensational as of late while the Dodgers’ opening offering, Japanese rookie Kenta Maeda, had recently been showing signs of a somewhat tired and weary right arm.

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