Notes: LA has rotation surplus entering camp

Prospect Ruiz delayed by visa issues; Kershaw arrives after escaping storm

February 19th, 2021

The Dodgers enter Spring Training with a surplus of starting pitching options, a problem that every other team in the Major Leagues would immediately sign up for.

, and are locked into the rotation. , who threw his first bullpen session on Thursday, likely is, too, after sitting out the entire 2020 season. has the early edge for the fifth-starter competition, but he has also had plenty of success out of the bullpen, including closing out last year’s World Series against the Rays.

and have had Major League success, but as of now they appear to be on the outside looking in for a rotation spot. Both are options to join the bullpen at the start of the season. Non-roster invitee , who missed last season due to back surgery, is another pitcher Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the team could count on as a starter.

At some point this spring, the Dodgers will have to make some tough decisions in regard to how they’re going to deploy their rotation. But at the start of camp, their focus will be to ramp up all eight options, giving them added depth as Spring Training unfolds.

“I think that’s a good thing,” said Roberts, when asked about the pitching depth. “Right now, I think we’re just going to look at it as we have eight viable Major League starters. As the days, weeks move forward, we’ll know more.”

Going from a 60-game sprint to a full 162-game marathon will certainly present its challenges for every player, particularly the pitchers. The jump in games will force pitchers to go through a workload they haven’t experienced since the 2019 season, and Roberts believes both relievers and starters will be impacted by the amount of games.

The uncertainties surrounding this season and how it’ll affect players’ bodies was what ultimately drove the Dodgers to sign Bauer this offseason, adding the 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner to a staff that led the Majors last season with a 3.02 team ERA.

“I think this is certainly unprecedented for any team to go from a 60-game [season] to 162,” Roberts said. “How players respond, time will tell. But I do think the depth we have, managing innings as far as on the field playing, managing usage innings, I think is really important. ... I think it’s gonna be tough, I do believe that.”

In order to manage workloads, the Dodgers will toss out ideas of starting the season with a six-man rotation, though that still seems unlikely. They could also look to have pitchers out of the bullpen who can provide the team multiple innings. That could open the door for Gonsolin, May, Urías and Nelson coming out of the bullpen, if needed.

“I don’t think it has to be an exact kind of one follow another guy,” Roberts said about starters piggybacking. “But certainly having guys in your 'pen that can take down two to three to four innings in a certain game is very, very helpful.”

Ruiz not yet in camp
Keibert Ruiz, the Dodgers’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is the only pitcher or catcher on the roster who wasn’t in camp on Thursday. Roberts said it’s a visa issue, and the club is working on resolving the problem.

Kershaw, who lives in Texas, had a loss of power during the snowstorms and wasn’t able to report on Wednesday. However, the left-hander was able to make it to Arizona and reported for the team’s first workout Thursday.

Other notes
• Pitchers Mitch White and Joe Kelly were the only non-full participants on Thursday, according to Roberts. The manager said both are dealing with soreness.

“We just want to make sure we sort of nip it right now,” Roberts said regarding Kelly, who felt sore after playing catch. “Nothing really relevant.”

• It was a busy day at Camelback Ranch on Thursday as plenty of pitchers threw their first bullpen session of camp. The list: Buehler, Price, Nelson, Gonsolin, May, Dennis Santana, Enny Romero, Mike Kickham, Andre Jackson, James Pazos, Gerardo Carrillo and Alex Vesia.

“First time I put eyes on him, and he’s a guy that has a really good delivery,” Roberts said, when asked about Vesia. “He’s a spin-rate guy. He does a good job with the fastball, locating it at the top of the zone. I thought today was a good 'pen. Good first impression for me.”