LA has tight race for final rotation spot

March 4th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With most of the core returning from last year’s World Series team, the Dodgers came into Spring Training with a pretty good understanding of what their 26-man roster will look like on Opening Day against the Rockies.

Due to a surplus of talent on the 40-man roster, the one question facing the Dodgers is one that every other team in the league would happily sign up for: Which talented pitchers will the Dodgers not have room for in the starting rotation?

With Trevor Bauer joining the team on a three-year, $102 million deal and David Price returning after sitting out the 2020 season, the Dodgers came into camp with seven established big league starters, but only five spots to fill.

If healthy, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Bauer and Price are all locks to be in the rotation. A week into games, it appears Julio Urías is the frontrunner to lock up the fifth spot.

Urías, 24, has found plenty of success throughout his big league career. He went 3-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 11 appearances (10 starts) last season. After battling injuries in 2017 and ‘18, and making most of his appearances out of the bullpen in ‘19, Urías appears to have a path to become a consistent part of the Dodgers’ rotation for the first time in his career. Los Angeles believes the left-hander is ready for that challenge.

“He’s been through a lot and he’s done it the right way,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “His growth physically, the maturity of a baseball player, he’s grown so much. Seeing him get regular work potentially as a starter, we’re all excited about that.”

One area where Urías needs to clean things up, however, is the first-inning struggles that have plagued him throughout his career. Urías has a career ERA of 4.97 in the first inning and opposing hitters have hit .295. The next highest batting average against Urías is .239 in the sixth inning.

Those struggles continued in his first Cactus League start on Wednesday against the Reds. Urías was unable to record the third out of the inning and the Dodgers chose to roll the inning over after a two-out RBI double by Alex Blandino.

“I always try to come prepared for anything,” Urías said Wednesday. “Those are their decisions to make. I’ll always be ready regardless of if they make me a starter or if they make me come out of the bullpen, I’m just going to give my 100 percent and focus the most that I can on all my pitches.”

While Urías has an early lead in the race, and aren’t too far behind and have enough Major League credentials to make compelling cases.

Gonsolin went 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts) last season, striking out 46 in 46 2/3 innings of work. His 1.4 bWAR last season was second among Dodgers starters, behind just Clayton Kershaw (1.7). At 26 years old, the right-hander has a polished repertoire and doesn’t have much left to prove in the Minors.

As for May, the right-hander had a solid 2020 season, posting a 2.57 ERA in 12 games (10 starts). His FIP wasn’t so friendly, however, finishing at 4.62. The former top prospect hit 100 mph in his Cactus League outing on Tuesday against the Giants. Now, the key for May is to use his power stuff to record more strikeouts. He finished with a 7.1 K/9 ratio last year.

“At this point of the year, I have to go out and do everything that I can. I’m fighting for a spot and we have seven guys to fill five roles,” May said earlier this spring. “I have to go out and do everything that I can to get one of them. That’s my goal, to be on the Opening Day roster as a starter.”

One interesting wrinkle to the competition is the fact that there’s a chance the Dodgers carry all three pitchers on Opening Day. With the Triple-A season getting pushed back, the Dodgers could choose to carry all three pitchers as opposed to having one or two of them head to the alternate training site. Piggybacking starters could also be a strategy in order to preserve arms as the season goes from 60 games last year to a traditional 162-game campaign in 2021.

“That’s certainly a possibility,” Roberts said. “I think those guys have all shown what they can do at the Major League level.”

But for now, the competition continues.