When the Los Angeles Dodgers began Spring Training, their primary question(s) involved the starting rotation and how it would take shape with Zack Greinke no longer part of the picture.
Generally speaking, Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu were presumed to be the five starters, with Alex Wood bound for the bullpen as the sixth starter.
As uncertainty rose with Ryu’s expected date of return, Wood’s outlook grew more positive. The left-hander’s positioning in the rotation then solidified once Anderson underwent back surgery that will keep him out three to five months.
That’s left the Dodgers shuffling and evaluating their options for a fifth starter. On Thursday, manager Dave Roberts was willing to put pen to paper for the majority of his rotation.
“I think if you look at the four starters, we’re right there,” he said. “As far as that fifth spot, we’re still trying to figure that out. I think as it lines up, we’re looking at Kersh, Kazmir, Maeda, Wood and then we’ll figure out that last spot.”
Roberts specifically named Brandon Beachy, Mike Bolsinger and Zach Lee when asked who is in contention to complete the rotation. The first-year manager didn’t completely eliminate Julio Urias when pressed on the subject, but raised caution with putting too much on his plate.
“Julio, he’s in the mix. Obviously, he’s a special pitcher. You’re looking at pitch counts, what’s good for him and what’s good for the organization,” Roberts said. “I think him being around Major League pitchers and coaches has been invaluable.
“You have Greg Maddux watching every bullpen he throws. He’s in the mix, but we definitely are very aware of not rushing him. As polished as he is, he’s not a finished product. But he’s special.”
Urias was one of seven players sent to Minor League camp on Thursday afternoon in the Dodgers’ second round of roster cuts.
One day after wavering on whether the Dodgers would use a five-man rotation during the first month of the regular season, Roberts stated the club will break camp with five starting pitchers.
Los Angeles will need a fifth starter on April 8 when they face the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Monday, April 11 is the Dodgers’ first off day, with another on April 18.