The Dodgers’ Incredible Balancing Act of the Pitching Staff

There should be no doubt that coming into the season, the Dodgers had one of the best starting rotations in baseball and adding Trevor Bauer was only going to elevate their staff. It forced the Dodgers to send three of their starting pitchers to the bullpen just because of how loaded they were at the start of the season. Fast forward to now, the Dodgers still have a great rotation, but Dustin May is sidelined until possibly the end of next season after Tommy John surgery, Tony Gonsolin is now rehabbing, as well as Jimmy Nelson, who both were slated to be in the bullpen on Opening Day.

The Dodgers have since then resorted to desperate measures as it’s been a guessing game as to who starts next for them in a series. It’s also forced them to utilize bullpen days which have put the next start for a pitcher at greater risk as most of the bullpen has been used up for a game.

See Jake Reiner’s stance on bullpen games and how they need to go away. 

Starting Rotation is Still Great

The one thing that shouldn’t get lost in this piece is that despite having so many injuries, the current state of the Dodgers rotation has been excellent with the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Bauer, and Julio Urías being the most consistent starters.

The Dodgers’ pitching staff ranks third in ERA in the National League with a 3.19 and second in OBA (opponent batting average against) with .206, which shows that the pitching shouldn’t really be a concern. But, there are always worst-case scenarios and the Dodgers have been flirting with it with all the injuries they’ve encountered.

It’s been a “next man up” mentality for the Dodgers as a team overall as they are no strangers to dealing with injuries, however, there could be no other options should a huge starter go down like May already has.

Jonathan Garza identified five free agent starters the Dodgers could easily sign in case this happens.

As mentioned before, the starting rotation is still really good with each starter going at least 6.0 innings in each of their last three starts and giving up a total of 21 runs; the biggest outliers beiong Kershaw and Urías’ outings against the Giants.

Other than that, the rotation has been as good as advertised, but they are just one injury away from having a huge problem on their hands.

The Dodgers should get credit for the way they’ve been balancing out each of their starters’ starts as it’s been like watching a circus trapeze going to work while figuring out how the bullpen figures in all of this.

Help Is On The Way

Another bright spot for the Dodgers is that they may not have to worry about who’s starting when for long as they might be getting some help from the Cat Man. Gonsolin is on the way back from a right shoulder inflammation injury that sidelined him since April. He’s made one rehab start with Triple-A Oklahoma City and is slated for one more start.

Dave Roberts stated, “the goal is five (innings) and 70-ish (pitches), something like that. After that, if it goes well, he’ll rejoin us with the next turn.” Should everything go right with Gonsolin, that’s one pitcher the Dodgers should immediately consider throwing into the fifth spot in the rotation as it will give the rest of their starters more rest and keep the bullpen intact throughout series which could be critical.

Another option that is soon to be coming off the IL is Jimmy Nelson, who is now more known for his role in relief as he’s been lights out in the bullpen. However, if it comes down to it, the Dodgers could stretch him out.

Roberts also stated on his recovery “What we’ll do is potentially set up a live BP on Tuesday, and if that goes well, then hopefully we can activate him Friday or Saturday.” He’ll more than likely stay in the bullpen once he comes back as Gonsolin is figured to get the shot in the rotation, but he should at least be considered if another worst-case scenario comes up.

Either way, the Dodgers’ ability to go short-staffed in the rotation and still dominate shouldn’t be overlooked and it’s what has helped them stay in the thick of things as of late and they should be rewarded with one more arm in the rotation.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times 

Jacob Cisneros is a writer for Dodgers Tailgate. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @_JacobCisneros.