With Gonsolin's status uncertain, Grove fills in

March 9th, 2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Manager Dave Roberts was able to provide a sliver of good news regarding ’s freak accident from Monday -- spraining his left ankle walking away from a drill on the backfields, causing him to miss his scheduled start against the Mariners on Wednesday.

“I think he’s still swelling, obviously, still tender,” said Roberts before Wednesday’s afternoon workouts. “We had an X-ray to rule out any type of fracture. Now I guess it’s just day to day. Obviously, it’s going to be a few days before he picks up a baseball. Every day that lingers is going to cost us on the back end.”

The lack of a fracture is a positive update for the right-hander, who limped while leaving the clubhouse a couple of days ago. Gonsolin, who put together the best season of his career in 2022 (a 16-1 record and 196 ERA+ in 24 starts) despite missing a month due to a forearm injury, was in the midst of ramping up his progression. He was scheduled to toss three innings versus Seattle.

Now, this forced hiatus halts the 28-year-old’s buildup, complicating the Opening Day picture for L.A.’s starting rotation.

“I don’t want to get ahead of it,” said Roberts. “It’s not something we feel good about right now. We’ll just kind of see how it goes each day.”

From Roberts’ perspective, it’s too early to determine the exact number of days that Gonsolin would need to return. The Dodgers are more focused on monitoring the status of his ankle. The line of thinking is that if Gonsolin doesn’t show improvement in the coming days, then he’ll undergo further testing to determine if there’s any ligament damage. But for now, it’s about being patient and making sure that he builds his strength back.

“I don’t think we’ve got that far out,” said Roberts. “Right now, we’re just trying to do a full-court press, getting the ankle back to full strength where he can bear weight. … But right now, we feel confident that it’s just a sprain.”

Grove efficient on the mound
In Gonsolin’s absence, right-hander made his fourth Cactus League start, making quick work of the Mariners in one trip through the order in a 2-2 tie. Grove struck out two and only gave up one hit, throwing an efficient 26 pitches in three innings of work.

“Obviously, there’s a reason people talk about depth to try and prepare for things that are unforeseen,” said Roberts. “But yeah, to have Michael and Ryan [Pepiot] ready, having got their feet wet last year, it certainly gives you a little bit more peace of mind.”

Grove began 2022 at Double-A Tulsa before getting promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City and made a couple of brief cameos with the Dodgers, appearing in seven games (six starts) in the Majors. It was a process that West Virginia native admits was exhausting at times, but it provided useful experience in understanding how to be ready in different roles, whether it was waiting in the bullpen or being prepared for a spot start.

L.A.’s No. 24 prospect is in the mix to make the roster when camp breaks, potentially by sneaking into the back end of the rotation or as someone who’s able to eat innings from the bullpen. But Grove is less concerned with the future, being that there are still three weeks until Opening Day. Right now, he’s focused on addressing his shortcomings from last year, focusing on developing a true putaway pitch.

“I think one of the things I was doing a really good job of was getting to two strikes, then I was having a hard time punching people [out] at that point,” said Grove after his start Wednesday. “And so it was, ‘How can I turn my slider into a weapon?’ It wasn’t really good.”

Grove spent the offseason in Tampa, tinkering with his slider to give it a more effective shape, trying to give the pitch more depth while keeping its velocity around 85 mph. He feels as though he’s in a good spot regarding his appearances, but it’s less so about the results and the outcome right now.

“I keep telling people that I’m finally able to have pitching conversations,” said Grove. “Instead of talking about, ‘What’s my arm slot or what’s my lower half doing?’ I’m able to have those more professional conversations instead of being worried about everything being right on the mound.”