LOS ANGELES -- Dustin May made it very clear from the beginning of camp that he wanted to earn a spot in the starting rotation. On Monday, he accomplished that goal as the Dodgers named the right-hander the fifth starter, the final piece of what could be one of the best rotations in the Majors.
With May joining Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler and Julio Urías in the rotation, the Dodgers will start the season with veteran left-hander David Price and right-hander Tony Gonsolin coming out of the bullpen.
May has a 2.63 ERA this spring, with one start remaining on Tuesday in the spring finale against the Angels. The 23-year-old has pitched well, striking out 13 batters over his last two starts. His first start of the regular season will be on April 5 vs. the A’s.
“It was easy, it was tough, just a lot of variables,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, when asked about the decision to go with May over Price and Gonsolin. “A lot of good thoughts, but balancing a very talented pitching staff ... this was sort of the first hurdle. I think we’re in a good spot.”
Roberts said he sees Price, Gonsolin and Jimmy Nelson (who just made the roster this week) as leverage relievers capable of providing length out of the bullpen. He expects to see all three pitchers throw as many as four innings in a relief appearance. Price pitched two innings in a simulated game on Monday and has gone as long as four innings this spring. Gonsolin is coming off an 86-pitch outing on Sunday against the Angels.
By having three relievers who can provide length in the bullpen, the Dodgers are hoping to lessen the workload for all their pitchers at the beginning of the season. Price hasn’t pitched in a big league game since ‘19 and the only Dodgers pitcher to eclipse the 60-inning mark last season was Bauer, en route to his Cy Young Award-winning campaign with the Reds.
“We have a lot of talented pitchers and there’s going to be a little bit of bullpen gymnastics, pitching gymnastics as far as this season. This is an unknown, this season coming off of last year,” Roberts said. “I think the ultimate goal that the players, coaches, the organization are aligned in, is the fact that we want our pitchers to be as sharp and as fresh and as strong for the September and postseason run [as possible].
“Having three guys in the ‘pen that are Major League starters that can take down innings is very valuable and I don’t think any team in baseball can say they have that.”
McKinstry lands last bench spot
The Dodgers are looking to replace the production and versatility left behind by Enrique Hernández, and Zach McKinstry will get the first crack at trying to fill those shoes. Roberts said McKinstry was notified on Monday that he will be on the team’s Opening Day roster.
“I think that you look at our roster, a potential right-handed bench bat, on paper, might fit a little bit better, but I think Zach’s versatility [will help] to take a good at-bat off the bench, on the bases. And throughout his career, he’s handled left-handed pitching. He’ll get a start in Colorado somewhere, but [we] just love him on the team.”
McKinstry rounds out a bench that will include Edwin Ríos, Austin Barnes, Matt Beaty and Chris Taylor. He’s expected to play second base, third base and both corner outfield spots.
One last spot
The Dodgers have 25 players ready to board the flight to Colorado for the Opening Series against the Rockies. Now they just need one more player. That will come down to right-hander Dennis Santana and left-hander Scott Alexander.
Santana had an impressive spring, showing increased velocity thanks to added weight over the offseason. He struck out 10 over 8 1/3 innings of work. Santana has a 4.32 ERA this spring, but all of the damage came in one outing against the D-backs on March 18, when he allowed four runs. Santana has the ability to pitch multiple innings per outing, which could end up working in his favor, especially with the first four games at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
Alexander, on the other hand, would give the Dodgers a third lefty in the bullpen. He went 2-0 with a 2.92 ERA in 13 appearances last season, while holding left-handers to a .056 average. Santana has two options remaining. Alexander has one left.