PITTSBURGH -- The Dodgers have gotten off to a slower-than-usual start to the season, largely because of injuries to a number of key players. No part of the roster has been hit as hard by the injury bug than the starting rotation.
Los Angeles lost Tony Gonsolin and Ryan Pepiot during Spring Training, immediately testing the team’s rotation depth, after the club believed it would be a strength coming into the 2023 season. Last week, the Dodgers lost Michael Grove to a right groin strain, forcing them to cut Gonsolin’s rehab short.
On Wednesday, the Dodgers welcomed Gonsolin back from the injured list as the All-Star right-hander made his season debut, walking three over 3 1/3 scoreless innings in an 8-1 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park.
“I thought he was good,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “They did a good job of controlling the strike zone and making him repeat pitches, and the pitch count got up there. But I think that was more of a reflection of that offensive approach tonight versus what Tony could or couldn’t do.”
Given his abbreviated buildup, Gonsolin was going to be limited to, at most, four innings and 60 pitches. He wasn’t very effective in the zone, walking three and allowing two hits. That got his pitch count up to 53 through three innings. And after allowing two runners to get on base in the fourth, that was the end of the night for Gonsolin.
“I threw way too many balls today,” Gonsolin said. “Not necessarily thinking about building up at all. I’m just trying to go out there and pitch for as long as I can. Just need to throw more strikes.”
Though Wednesday’s game resulted in yet another lopsided Dodgers loss, getting Gonsolin back gives the team some much-needed help in the rotation. Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw have been constant performers, acting as dual aces. Dustin May has been solid, but the young right-hander is still looking to put it all together now that he’s more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery.
Noah Syndergaard, on the other hand, has a 6.58 ERA in his five starts. While there’s optimism he’ll turn things around soon, the performance hasn’t been nearly as consistent as the Dodgers hoped when they signed him this offseason. Once Gonsolin gets built up, that’ll give Los Angeles five starters who can toss a significant amount of quality innings.
“Even after he came out of the game, we still had a chance to win the game,” Roberts said. “[In] Tony’s outing, I think he wanted to get through four, but I felt he was spent. But I thought it was still a step in the right direction for him.”
While it was a good step forward for Gonsolin, the Dodgers’ bullpen and offense took another step backwards. After an eight-run performance on Tuesday, their offense was held to just one run on a Freddie Freeman solo homer in the eighth inning. Los Angeles was held without a hit over five innings before Austin Wynns led off the sixth inning with a single. The Dodgers, of course, were without Will Smith, Max Muncy and J.D. Martinez, three of their best hitters.
In the bullpen, the Dodgers turned to four relievers after Gonsolin, and all four allowed at least one earned run. Alex Vesia and Yency Almonte have struggled this season following breakout seasons in 2021 and ‘22, respectively. Los Angeles also allowed six stolen bases on Wednesday and leads the Majors with 35 steals against this season.
“The consistency of these guys hasn’t been there, for the most part, [but if] you look at the track record, the track records are pretty good,” Roberts said. “So I’m going to keep running them out there and expecting good things when they go out there, until ultimately something changes.”