Early Injuries Force Dodgers to Adjust

A few months ago I wrote an article on the Dodgers starting rotation, where I pointed out that despite losing Zach Grienke, it looked to be a deeper staff coming into the start of the 2016 season.

I may have spoken just a little too soon.

As Spring Training officially kicked off this week, so too did the seemingly reoccurring rash of injuries that seem to nag the club every year. Within just the last couple of weeks, the injury bug hit the Dodgers like something out of a Batman comic.

ICYMI: Dodgers’ Top Prospects May Get Early Call Due to Rotation Injuries

Frankie Montas sidelined for 2-4 months with a rib injury… Bam! Josh Ravin shelved 3-6 months after breaking his forearm in a car accident… Kapow! Brett Anderson out 3-5 months with back surgery… Whack!

While the injuries to Montas and Ravin aren’t as alarming (both merely had an outside shot to make the club out of spring training) the one to Anderson is definitely concerning. He was supposed to be locked in as one of the Dodgers starters going into the season. Now, couple his injury with the news that Hyun-Jin Ryu is not expected back until at least May, and all of a sudden that deep rotation is starting to look noticeably thin.

Assuming no further injuries plague the Dodgers rotation (fingers crossed,) the club will likely start the year with Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir, Kenta Meada, and Alex Wood. To fill Anderson’s spot, and bridge the gap until Ryu can return, the Dodgers have some options, and perhaps it will be a completely open competition this spring.

A couple of options that seem to top the list of candidates are Carlos Frias and Mike Bolsinger. Both filled in several times last season and had 34 combined starts between them. Bolsinger won’t light up any radar guns, but he had some success with his off-speed first type style, which seemed to catch many hitters off-guard.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

On the flip side, Frias is a hard thrower with a live arm, but the Dodgers haven’t decided whether they prefer him as a starter or reliever at this point. Brandon Beachy is also an option, although he struggled in his brief time with the team last year, and has an injury-prone history as well.

The opportunity may also present itself to one of the Dodgers young prospects. Julio Urias and Jose De Leon, the top two pitching prospects in the organization, weren’t expected to compete for a starting spot this year. Neither has thrown a significant amount of innings at AAA yet, although De Leon appears to be closer to MLB-ready. The injury to Anderson likely won’t change the Dodgers overall cautious plan with these guys, but if one of them shines during spring training, they could get an early crack at making some starts come regular season.

As with any highly regarded prospect nowadays, both Urias and De Leon would be on strict pitch counts and inning limits, and would undoubtedly not be expected to step into the rotation on a full-time basis for the entire year. But being that the Dodgers would only be looking for a temporary solution until Ryu returns (and later Brandon McCarthy as well), the kids could possibly be called upon to hold down the fort for the first part of the season.zach lee

The more realistic option to fill the rotation might be Zach Lee, who spent most of last year at Oklahoma City, finishing with a 11-6 record and a 2.70 ERA. Lee was once a top prospect in the Dodgers farm system, but has slipped in the rankings and some think his upside is limited. However, he’s seemed to have run his course in the minors leagues, and if he were ever going to make the jump to the Bigs, one would think that now should be the time to find out what he brings one way or another. I’m sure the Dodgers will give him ample opportunities during spring training.

Whatever option the Dodgers decide to go with likely won’t be decided on until much closer to the start of the regular season. And it could be a fluid situation, where they may not go with just one guy to take the ball every 5th day. Maybe they’ll go by match-ups, or skip the spot in the rotation from time to time. Until then, one thing that every Dodgers fan is hoping… please, no more injuries!

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Brian Robitaille

Originally from Southern California, and currently stationed in Northern Virginia, Brian is a devoted Dodgers fan, and has been since he was a kid. He's an Active Duty member of the U.S Air Force, and has been serving for the last 16 years. While he loves all things sports related, and supports all his teams (Lakers, Steelers, L.A Kings, & USC) his true passion is the Dodgers, and loves writing about the boys in blue.

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  1. The Dodgers
    do have choices.None of them are CY
    candidates, but then #5 rotation pitchers rarely are.Some still can’t help but state the obvious
    that if the Dodgers had re-signed Greinke there would not be an open spot.But Greinke is gone, and no matter how fans
    want to castigate Friedman and Zaidi for not giving that sixth year, the
    Dodgers still need to find 5 arms for the rotation.  Those are the guys that Dodger fans should be pulling for, and let the DBack fans pull for Greinke.
    De Leon
    pitched well for his two innings last week.But he still needs to taste success at AAA before he makes the ultimate
    climb to the Dodgers rotation.As long
    as Bolsinger, Lee, Stripling, Cotton, and Chris Anderson continue to pitch
    well, there is no need to rush De Leon or Urias.They will be in LA soon enough.The Dodgers are also bent on giving Brandon
    Beachy a shot at the spot.Maybe he can
    re-find that ability that made him a good pitcher with ATL.Who knows?
    I personally
    am pulling for Zach Lee.He does not
    have that one out pitch, and does not miss a lot of bats, but he has very good
    control.His success will be determined
    by how well he can command the pitches he does have.Can he keep them down in the zone, and off
    the plate?He had a 2.7 ERA in a very
    hitter friendly PCL.He has at least
    earned the chance.If he does not earn
    the rotation spot, it’s time to move him.Bolsinger is the safe choice.

  2. Zack Lee looked good against the G-ants the other day. I think it’s about time they brought him up.

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