With an insurmountable lead in the NL West and a comfortable lead for best record in baseball, the Dodgers and Dave Roberts have planned at various times to employ a six-man rotation over the final month or so of the season.
The rotation of Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urias, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney, and Dustin May held things down well while Clayton Kershaw was out with a back issue, and the plan was to just slot Kershaw into a six-man rotation on his return. Unfortunately, Gonsolin went down with a forearm strain the same week Kershaw was returning, so those plans were scrapped.
The new plan was unveiled this weekend, as Ryan Pepiot was recalled to make a start on Sunday against the Padres. There was no indication whether it was a spot start or if the plan was to use Pepiot as the sixth starter until Gonsolin returns, but if it was the latter, those plans might be in question after Pepiot’s clunker on Sunday.
Roberts deployed lefty Caleb Ferguson as an opener, and it couldn’t have gone much better, with Ferguson striking out all three batters he faced, all looking, on just eleven pitches.
Sadly, Pepiot was not nearly as efficient. He threw 26 pitches in his first inning of work, and that ended up being his most efficient inning. He allowed an unearned run in the third on two walks, a single, and an error, then walked the first two batters of the fourth inning before being pulled. In total, he threw 74 pitches in two innings (plus two batters), leaving the bullpen to do most of the work.
As J.P. Hoornstra writes in the Orange County Register, Roberts said Pepiot just didn’t have it on Sunday.
“I just thought he ran out of gas,” manager Dave Roberts said of Pepiot. “They were spoiling a lot of pitches. He just didn’t have enough to put those guys away. We had to cover some innings. It was good to see those guys come through to pick us up.”
Overall, the Padres fouled off 19 pitches from Pepiot, compared to just seven swings and misses. Counting the opener, the Dodgers bullpen had to work seven innings on Sunday. As one fan pointed out, that’s not the ideal situation:
At this point, we don’t have firm information on when Gonsolin will be back. The Dodgers have a day off on Thursday and Gonsolin is eligible to come off the IL this weekend, so a quick return would allow them to stick with a six-man rotation even without Pepiot. But with the uncertainty about Gonsolin’s recovery, they probably aren’t willing to bet on that yet.
Pepiot has been optioned four times this year, so his next option will be his last. If they send him back down to Triple-A today, the next time they call him up he has to stay on the roster the rest of the regular season.
Add it all up, and there’s plenty of uncertainty about how the Dodgers will handle their rotation the rest of the year.
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