Gonsolin, Heaney to round out LA's rotation

March 28th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- By taking just a quick glance at the Dodgers’ lineup, it’s easy to see why Los Angeles is the clear favorite to win the National League West in 2022. With Freddie Freeman now in the mix, the Dodgers have plenty of All-Star hitters at their disposal.

But if there’s an area that could potentially derail the Dodgers’ season, it’s the back end of the starting rotation.

The Dodgers came into camp knowing that Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urías were going to shoulder most of the load in the rotation. When healthy, the trio could be one of the best in the Majors. The rest of the rotation, however, has a few more question marks.

Tyler Anderson, Tony Gonsolin, Andrew Heaney and David Price came into the spring as the pitchers with the best chance to secure one of the two open spots in the rotation. Mitch White and Andre Jackson also had outside chances, though the young right-handers could benefit from some more seasoning in the Minors.

On Monday, the rest of the Opening Day rotation picture became clearer, as manager Dave Roberts said that Heaney and Gonsolin will round out the starting staff. Anderson will start the season as a bulk guy out of the bullpen. Price’s role is undetermined given that the veteran left-hander has not yet appeared in a Cactus League game.

“With Andrew, he’s been a starter his entire career. We signed him to be a starter. He’s building up to take down the innings. So I think that’s something that we feel really good about going forward,” Roberts said. “As far as Tony, his most comfortable role is a starter. He's been really good.”

Heaney, 30, was the first offseason acquisition by the Dodgers. The left-hander agreed to a one-year, $8.5 million deal in November. Los Angeles is banking on him to have a bounceback 2022 season after posting a 5.83 ERA in 30 appearances (23 starts) with the Angels and Yankees.

Since signing with the Dodgers, Heaney has been working on a new grip with the breaking ball. Ideally, the pitch resembles the “sweeper” breaking ball that the Dodgers have continued to introduce to some of their pitchers. The early returns, however, have not been positive for Heaney. He has allowed 10 earned runs on 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings this spring, though he said the feeling has been better than the results.

“There were some times that it felt really good. Other times, not so great,” Heaney said after his last Cactus League start. “You want it to be breezy, obviously, but there are some times that it’s almost kind of good to kind of see what you can and can’t do out there.”

While Heaney is still trying to figure things out, Gonsolin, on the other hand, believes he’s in a better place mentally and physically than where he was last season.

Gonsolin spent a couple of months on the injured list with a right shoulder injury that bothered him all season. So far this spring, Gonsolin said he feels healthier. In his first Cactus League start against the Rockies, Gonsolin struck out four over three innings.

“He looks great,” Roberts said. “I think with Tony, it’s kind of the bounce back. In years past, last year in particular, it was a good start, but then in his side work, he just didn’t feel as good. And then the next start or outing, the velocity was way down. Now, he’s holding his stuff and that speaks to being healthy.”

By the end of the season, the Dodgers’ rotation could look different. The Dodgers are hoping to get Dustin May back from Tommy John surgery late in the year. They’re also expecting top pitching prospects Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot and Landon Knack to make an impact by midseason.

But until then, the Dodgers will look to survive with what they have. Gonsolin and Heaney get the first crack.

“I’m more confident,” Roberts said, when asked if his confidence in the rotation has changed since the start of camp. “Where our starters are today, the buildup, it just gives us more confidence that pitchers aren’t redlined through April. That can’t happen.”