While the Dodgers are moving Mookie Betts around the diamond, they might as well put him in the starting rotation, where the need has become acute.
So, here’s the roll call. Clayton Kershaw is the ace. If May is out, the No. 2 starter is Julio Urías. The No. 3 starter is Tony Gonsolin, who allowed three runs in five innings of long relief and took his first loss of the year by allowing as many runs in one inning (three) as he had in five starts combined.
With David Price deciding not to play this year and Ross Stripling getting traded to Toronto, there are no apparent Nos. 4 and 5 starters for Los Angeles, and the postseason is a little more than two weeks away.
Urías will start Saturday against the Astros, while Sunday’s contest will be a bullpen game. Manager Dave Roberts said the starter would likely be somebody currently on the big league club. Rookie lefty Victor González, removed after one effective inning Thursday night, is a likely candidate with a 1.29 ERA. Alex Wood, who began the season in the rotation before injuring his left shoulder, is another. Mitch White is staying ready at the alternate training site.
Roberts kept it upbeat when asked if he’s concerned about his rotation.
“We’ll know more [Friday] with Dustin,” Roberts said. “With Walker, he’s on the IL, but once the days are served, we’ll get him where he needs to be. So with him, there’s not a level of concern. I thought Tony was good. So, it’ll be more telling with Dustin [on Friday]. I still feel very confident.”
Roberts said Gonsolin, who was out of the rotation this week with two scheduled off-days, will return to starting next week, possibly as soon as Tuesday.
How did a franchise with one of the deepest rosters run so thin of starters in mid-September? The Dodgers rolled the dice in the offseason, letting veterans Hyun Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill go and counting on Urías, May and Gonsolin to emerge. And Price's absence is because of the pandemic.
To this point, however, the strategy hasn’t prevented Los Angeles from going 32-13, the best record in the Majors. But the combination of injuries and repeated short starts has put the burden on the bullpen. Not only will it pick up every inning Sunday, but it’s been shouldering most of the work this week. Dating back to this past Sunday, relievers have thrown 23 2/3 of the past 32 2/3 innings.
Gonsolin’s five innings on Thursday night are included, even though this more resembled a start. He was told in advance he would be piggybacking May, so Gonsolin was prepared to throw multiple innings. He inherited a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning, but he allowed three consecutive one-out hits in the sixth -- a single to Nick Ahmed, an RBI triple to Daulton Varsho and a two-run home run to Carson Kelly.
“My body felt good, I just wasn’t great today,” Gonsolin said. “I felt like I didn’t execute pitches very well. I felt there is a lot of improvement to be made with every pitch.”