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

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.

This is fantastic news for Ryu, who fell off the radar the past two seasons due to his problematic shoulder. After missing all of 2015 recovering from surgery, he was initially scheduled to return during 2016 spring camp, but his shoulder never mended properly. Following numerous unsuccessful throwing programs, he finally began to throw hard late last summer and surprisingly made a big league start against the Padres on July 7, when he surrendered six runs on eight hits and two walks in 4-2/3 innings pitched.

Elbow soreness not long after his return to the mound ultimately led to an arthroscopic debridement procedure, which would eventually shut him down for the remainder of the 2016 season.

Notwithstanding, 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. Many pundits believe that if Ryu remains healthy over the next 10 days, he’s a lock to secure a starting rotation spot, supplanting fellow southpaw Alex Wood, who could be destined for Triple-A Oklahoma City to remain on call in case of a big league injury.

At the beginning of spring training in 2016, Wood was right on the fringe of the starting rotation, often being discussed as the headliner at OKC, up until the point it was deemed that Ryu would remain on the shelf, and when team officials announced that Brett Anderson required surgery on his back to repair a damaged disc. Starting the 2016 season as the Dodgers’ No. 4 starter, Wood would go on to make 10 mediocre starts through May, before he was forced to the disabled list to rest his elbow for a month because of an apparent posterior impingement. Ultimately, he underwent an arthroscopic debridement procedure on his elbow and missed an additional eight weeks. Although it appeared as if his season was finished, the 26-year-old Charlotte native persevered through rehab and went on to make four impressive relief appearances of shutout ball down the stretch of the regular season, eventually earning a spot on the NLCS roster against the Cubs in October.

If he’s 100 percent healthy and his mechanics are in tune, there’s no question that he’s among the best five in the Dodgers’ organization. However, injuries have been Wood’s downfall in his two years with Los Angeles after he made an impressive 30 or more starts during his first three years with the Braves.

So far this spring, Wood appears to be in good health, having pitched in a total of four contests, two of which were starts. Over 11-1/3 innings, he has surrendered four earned runs on nine hits, alongside two walks and 11 strikeouts.

If Ryu stays on his current pace and indeed earns a spot in the Dodgers’ starting five, it seemingly vaults Wood into a competition with veteran righty Brandon McCarthy for the final spot in the rotation. McCarthy has also had his own fare share of struggles in his quest of battling back from Tommy John surgery in 2015.

Yet because Wood has plenty of options remaining on his contract, he may be the odd man out. Since he has already proven himself to throw effectively in relief, though, Wood could be an option in 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 make more sense 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.

As far as controlling his own destiny, it probably matters little. Just where exactly he fits into the Dodgers’ puzzle probably depends only slightly on how well he throws through the remainder of the spring, but more importantly, how the pitching staff shapes up as a whole on the injury front over the next 10 days.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

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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)

 

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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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 Starting Rotation: Scott Kazmir Poised for Successful 2017

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(Mandatory Credit: Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

Considering the manner in which his 2016 campaign came to an undesirable close, many fans of the Dodgers were not overwhelmingly excited in November when starting pitcher Scott Kazmir chose not to opt out of his current contract and remain with Los Angeles in 2017. Yet after showing a few glimpses of his former successful self in the early portion of last season, Kazmir definitely has the potential to bolster and strengthen the Dodgers’ rotation if he can stay healthy and maintain consistent mechanics throughout the year.

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Should Dodgers Hold Back Julio Urias Early in Season?

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(Mandatory Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

As the beginning of spring training creeps ever so closer, plenty of philosophies and prospective strategies surrounding the 25-man roster of the Dodgers will presumably begin to emerge from outlets everywhere across the baseball blogosphere. And whenever a member of the Los Angeles management crew shares a few words with reporters hinting about the makeup of the club’s starting rotation, stories always seem to surface very quickly.

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Hyun-Jin Ryu Starting Spring Training Early

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(Photo Credit: AP/Yonhap News)

While many fans of the Dodgers aren’t overwhelmingly optimistic about a productive return, pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu seems to be determined to prove his critics otherwise, as the 29-year-old southpaw will head to Japan this weekend to start a three-week long rehabbing endeavor before the beginning of MLB spring training.

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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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