LOS ANGELES -- With Spring Training less than three weeks away, the Dodgers have a high-quality problem: too many starting pitchers.Veterans Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alex Wood -- each on the rebound from injuries last year -- are on the outside of the starting rotation looking in,
LOS ANGELES -- With Spring Training less than three weeks away, the Dodgers have a high-quality problem: too many starting pitchers.
Veterans Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alex Wood -- each on the rebound from injuries last year -- are on the outside of the starting rotation looking in, barring injury or a trade.
Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias are the top four, with the fifth spot up for grabs among Kazmir, McCarthy, Ryu, Wood and young starters Brock Stewart and Thomas Stripling.
Better too many than not enough, as the Dodgers painfully endured last year, when the four veterans missed considerable time with injuries.
Kazmir was signed a year ago to help replace Zack Greinke, who opted out. Kazmir went 10-6 with a 4.56 ERA in 26 starts and made only one start after Aug. 22 because of what was described as thoracic inflammation. Kazmir said it turned out his neck and shoulder problems were the result of a chain reaction that began with compensating for inflexible hips with faulty mechanics.
After pinpointing the problem in the offseason and being treated weekly with acupuncture, cupping and yoga, Kazmir said he's ready to take back his job.
"I'm three weeks ahead of schedule. I want to be at the top of that rotation," said Kazmir, who led the American League in starts and strikeouts in 2007. "The way things went last year, I have a chip on my shoulder and I want to prove to the fans and the front office that brought me here that they made the right decision."
At Saturday's Dodger Stadium FanFest, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Ryu has relayed news that he's healthy after shoulder and elbow operations the past two years.
"The reports have been really good," Friedman said. "Came into offseason in a little bit better shape and ready to get after it a little more. We're cautiously optimistic. It's a wait-and-see approach. Obviously, it would be a major boon for us if he's healthy."
McCarthy, whose recovery from Tommy John surgery was complicated by a case of the yips, said he's throwing off a mound at max velocity with no control issues and that he's also ready to reclaim his rotation spot.
Friedman said Wood is back to starting after returning from in-season elbow surgery last year as a reliever.
"I'm coming in as a starter and that's where I expect to stay," said Wood, who has thrown off a mound twice in the past week.
Although Wood pitched in relief successfully, most of the "extra" starters are considered starting pitchers by the Dodgers, not relievers, and shuffling back and forth is not ideal.
"It's obviously tricky in that once you do it, it just becomes that much harder to build them back up as starters," Friedman said. "We'll have to factor all of that in, and it depends what our bullpen looks like, whether we have injuries or not in Spring Training. All of that will go into our decisions come Opening Day."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.