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Dodgers mull options to fill rotation spots

Pederson adds to Dodgers' versatility by playing first base
@kengurnick
June 22, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts again delayed announcing a starting pitcher to replace the injured Rich Hill in the rotation, a situation that might have been further complicated by Walker Buehler’s 16-strikeout complete game on Friday night. Hill’s spot comes up Tuesday, but because the Dodgers are in

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts again delayed announcing a starting pitcher to replace the injured Rich Hill in the rotation, a situation that might have been further complicated by Walker Buehler’s 16-strikeout complete game on Friday night.

Hill’s spot comes up Tuesday, but because the Dodgers are in a stretch of 18 consecutive days with a game, Julio Urías had been inserted as a sixth starter the day following Hill’s one-inning start. Ideally, the Dodgers still want to give their starters an extra day of rest.

“It’s going to be somebody from our roster,” Roberts said Saturday. “One of the guys in the bullpen will start.”

Urias went three innings in that spot start, his first since April 18. The other likely candidate for Tuesday’s spot is Ross Stripling. Then on Wednesday, if they still want a sixth starter, the most likely choice would be to call up Tony Gonsolin from Triple-A. Although he missed five weeks with a strained side muscle, Gonsolin has built back up and pitched five innings in his most recent start on Thursday.

A sixth starter next week makes even more sense to give an extra day between starts for Buehler, who threw a career-high 111 pitches Friday night in his first career complete game.

Pederson gains experience at first base

Joc Pederson started at first base again on Saturday. The club is serious about having the option to move him out of the outfield but keep him in the lineup when A.J. Pollock returns from elbow surgery after the All-Star break.

Alex Verdugo’s ability to play center field and hit left-handed pitching has prompted the experiment with Pederson, who until this week has platooned in left field with Chris Taylor. Until the injured Corey Seager returns after the All-Star break, Taylor is the primary shortstop. With Pederson at first, Friday night walk-off hero Matt Beaty plays left field.

“It’s giving Joc a runway to potentially increase his versatility and our roster versatility,” said Roberts. “I think it’s a good decision. Beaty feels comfortable in left field. With A.J. and Corey coming back after the [All-Star] break, it’s going to look a little bit different.”

Roberts said the biggest challenge for Pederson is the speed of the game in the infield compared to tracking the ball off the bat in the outfield. There is footwork and especially positioning with defensive shifts.

Roberts said there will be game situations – like Thursday night’s ninth inning – when he will bring right fielder Cody Bellinger into his natural first-base spot. Roberts moved Bellinger to the outfield two months ago after Bellinger reinjured his right shoulder diving for a ground ball.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.