Gonsolin making case for postseason roster spot

Dodgers rookie impresses with strong start, but bullpen can't hold

August 31st, 2019

PHOENIX -- Tony Gonsolin’s impressive August may have earned him a spot on the Dodgers’ postseason roster.

The 25-year-old rookie right-hander completed a strong month with five-plus solid innings in Los Angeles’ 5-4 loss to Arizona on Friday night at Chase Field. Gonsolin allowed two runs on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts.

Gonsolin, the Dodgers’ No. 5 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four August starts. Some could view it as a successful audition for a spot on the postseason roster, but that hasn’t been on the righty’s mind when he takes the mound.

“I try not to think about October,” said Gonsolin, who also notched his first big league RBI. “Ideally, we get there. And then, there comes about getting a roster spot and that, it’s up to them. I’ve just got to go out every day and do what I can do.”

Both runs allowed by Gonsolin came against the final batter he faced. After walking Josh Rojas to open the sixth, Gonsolin gave up a two-run homer to Eduardo Escobar. The 399-foot shot, which had an exit velocity of 99.5 mph, per Statcast, came on a high fastball that Gonsolin left up out of the strike zone.

“I just tried to get a little too fine with Rojas and fell behind in the count, tried to nibble a little too much,” Gonsolin said. “That ball on Escobar, tip the cap, I think he just got me.”

Before that, Gonsolin was dealing. After walking Jarrod Dyson to begin his outing, Gonsolin retired 10 straight batters, not allowing a hit until Escobar’s one-out double in the fourth. He faced another jam in the fifth, when he had runners on the corners with two outs, but Gonsolin escaped unscathed both times.

Los Angeles’ bullpen couldn’t get Gonsolin a win, however, as it wasn’t able to protect a two-run lead. gave up a game-tying two-run homer to Rojas in the seventh and balked in the go-ahead run in the eighth.

It was Gonsolin’s first time back at Chase Field since his Major League debut on June 26, when he allowed six runs (four earned) in four innings in a loss. Since then, he has a 1.88 ERA, a stretch that includes a dominant four-inning relief appearance on July 30 in addition to his four August starts.

“He continues to impress and continues to get more comfortable,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Tonight, he showed early that the breaking ball, the curveball, wasn’t there, but still kept going to it. I just think that [pitching coach Rick Honeycutt] has done a really nice job of really cleaning up his direction and allowing his pitches to repeat more. And he’s more consistent, his fastball command is really good.

“This is one of those things where you throw a guy into the fire and [have him] kind of learn on the run, and he’s doing a great job of getting better every time out.”

The Dodgers have taken a similar approach with fellow right-hander Dustin May, the club’s No. 2 prospect, as he has gotten his first taste of the big leagues with five appearances (four starts) this month. However, Los Angeles is planning to use May out of the bullpen in the near future, rather than starting him.

The same could happen for Gonsolin, as Roberts said the Dodgers haven’t decided whether the righty will make another start. Either way, Gonsolin has made a strong case to pitch in the postseason -- whether that’s as a starter or as a reliever -- and he’s learning valuable information about the Majors along the way.

“I think the biggest thing is just executing pitches,” Gonsolin said. “I think going into today and figuring out the best way to be as consistent as possible out there is a huge part of it.”

And though the Dodgers have lost five of their last eight games, it’s almost a sure thing there will be postseason games for Gonsolin to pitch in. Despite its recent struggles, Los Angeles has an 18-game lead in the National League West and its magic number to clinch the division is nine.

“The effort’s there,” Roberts said. “There are nights that it’s just inconsistent, whether it be the at-bats or whether it be the pitching, we just haven’t found ways to win baseball games this past week. But in a long season, that’s going to happen.”