Inbox: Gonsolin or Price as No. 5 starter?

May 14th, 2021

It has been an interesting start to the season for the Dodgers, to say the least. Los Angeles got off to a blazing 13-2 start, looking every bit like the team many picked to repeat as World Series champions.

But then the bats got cold and the injuries piled up. That combination saw the Dodgers go on an unusual extended slump, culminating in a forgettable 2-8 road trip. However, they started to look more like themselves in the two-game sweep against the Mariners.

While the optics haven’t been great, the Dodgers are still in a good spot. They’re three games over .500, and they entered Thursday just 2 1/2 games behind the Giants in the National League West.

The Dodgers have a chance to make up some ground during their current nine-game homestand. But before then, we fielded some questions from you in this Dodgers Inbox. Let’s take a look at what’s on your mind. For future inboxes, email [email protected] or follow on Twitter @juanctoribio.

How soon can we expect a fifth starter in Gonsolin or Price to return, and would the Dodgers keep a four-man rotation until then? -- @dodgerserg via Twitter

The Dodgers benefited from three off-days over the past two weeks and were able to get by with a four-man rotation after losing Dustin May for the season. Now, however, the Dodgers will need to figure out their fifth starter situation due to the lack of off-days.

is throwing to hitters this week in Arizona, which is another step in the right direction in his recovery. Gonsolin was scheduled to throw two innings. If that goes well, his next progression will be to get through three innings, then four or 60 pitches. That could take another two weeks, meaning the Dodgers will need to figure out something else in the meantime. When Gonsolin returns, he will slot in as a permanent starter.

isn’t an option to start for the Dodgers, as the left-hander will return as a key bullpen option. The team is hopeful Price can be back by early next week. While he won’t start, he could essentially provide two innings during a bullpen day, which appears to be the best option for Los Angeles. and could also give the team multiple innings.

Top pitching prospect was a candidate for a spot start, but the right-hander was shut down for seven to 10 days due to a shoulder impingement.

Is Ruiz trade bait or can they find a spot for him to play regularly at the MLB level? -- @bluegoon82 via Twitter

I certainly don’t think the Dodgers would actively shop . In fact, it would probably take a significant player in return for Los Angeles to entertain the idea of trading Ruiz. While Ruiz’s path is currently blocked by and , injuries are a part of the game, and having a capable third catcher is a luxury.

Ruiz will continue to get consistent playing time at Triple-A Oklahoma City and will be ready if Smith or Barnes suffers an injury. In a season that can still provide a lot of unknowns, having quality depth is important at every position.

When are Bellinger and McKinstry most likely to be back? -- @DodgersToMars via Twitter

Both are progressing, but still not particularly close to returning. posted a video on Instagram of him running. Manager Dave Roberts said that video was of Bellinger running at “say, 60 percent.” Even when he’s able to run full speed, he has to prove he can play the outfield for nine innings. A lengthy rehab assignment at a Minor League affiliate will be necessary, so Bellinger won’t be back for some time.

As for , the Dodgers will continue to be careful with him. Oblique injuries can be tricky and can linger if they don't heal correctly. Once he’s healthy, McKinstry would also need a rehab assignment.

Cleavinger and these other young bullpen arms are being used in “high leverage” situations early on in the season to get them ready for October, Is this true? -- @LABasedMLB via Twitter

While the Dodgers still expect to play deep into October, that’s not the reason the team has leaned on young pitchers such as in key situations. In a perfect world, Cleavinger and other pitchers would be developing in the Minors. But because injuries have piled up, the Dodgers have needed to dip into their depth more than they would’ve liked.