The Dodgers open the season Monday in San Diego and hit the ground running with 25 games over the next 27 days. Los Angeles has yet to name a fifth starting pitcher, a role they’ll need filled a minimum of three times in the first month of the season.
The rotation is anchored by Clayton Kershaw who has finished in the top three in Cy Young voting each of the last five years. He’s followed by off-season additions Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda. Alex Wood, acquired in a trade deadline deal with Atlanta last season slides into the fourth spot.
Lefty Hyun Jin Ryu won 28 games for Los Angeles in 2013 and 2014 but began last year on the disabled list. He then had surgery on his throwing shoulder to end his season before it started. The Dodgers hope the Korean import returns to form sometime in May.
Los Angeles was also counting on lefty Brett Anderson for the middle of their rotation after he pitched a career-high 180 innings a year ago. The hard-luck Anderson suffered a back injury in Spring Training and underwent surgery on March 10th. He could return as early as June, though July might be more realistic.
After Anderson went down, competition for the final spot centered on Zach Lee and Mike Bolsinger. On March 20th, the front office appeared to settle the issue when it sent Lee to the minors. However, less than an hour after Lee’s demotion Bolsinger suffered a strained oblique muscle on his left side while warming up for a start against San Diego. He figures to be unavailable for the first month of the season.
Candidates for the fifth spot now include Lee, Carlos Frias, and Ross Stripling. Lee had a disastrous Major League debut in what remains his only big league game. In last year’s July 25th contest against the Mets, the former first-round pick gave up 11 hits and 7 runs in 4 2/3 innings. A season ago, Frias started 13 games and pitched four more in relief. This spring he’s been sharp, posting a 2.45 ERA in 14 2/3 innings.
Stripling has battled injuries of his own. After being drafted in 2012, he pitched two seasons and reached Double-A before his 2014 campaign washed away with Tommy John surgery. The recovery period limited him to just 14 appearances in 2015.
The Dodgers’ pitching depth will surely be tested in the early months of the season. In the meantime, the front office will ask for the fans’ patience in hope that time gives the staff the chance to recover and contribute in the team’s quest for their fourth consecutive National League West crown.