Dodgers Spring Training: Caleb Ferguson Being Built Up As Starter But Role For 2019 Season Still Undetermined
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more pleasant surprises for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018 was the development of young pitcher Caleb Ferguson, who was called up well before was expected due to injuries.

The 22-year-old struggled a bit as a starter after joining the Dodgers, but then developed into a dominant reliever down the stretch of the season. Ferguson’s versatility left some question marks surrounding him going into this spring.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts addressed that uncertainty, explaining Ferguson is viewed as a starting pitcher for the time being.

“Caleb, along with a few other guys have that ability where we see him as a starter,” Roberts said.

“But for the Major League roster, the development part of things and what wins out, sometimes it’s circumstantial and what happens to other guys on your roster, at this point in time we’re building him up as a starter. When you get into the 10th through the 14th of March, you’ve got to make a decision on which way to pivot — to continue to ramp the player up or kind of taper back.”

Barring any injuries, the Dodgers starting rotation to begin the season is essentially a lock. It will feature Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda.

So while the organization still views Ferguson as a starter long-term, Roberts believes he will be in the bullpen this season until he can develop a consistent third pitch. “He’s a lot like Julio in the sense of you look at him and you think he’s a lot older than he is. Last year we put him into the fire and into some big spots,” Roberts said.

“The organization sees him as a starter, but he added a lot of value in the ‘pen. We’ve made it very clear we want him to continue to develop the fastball command, the breaking ball, and the changeup — the third pitch. He’s handled it really well.”

All pitchers have something specific that they focus on during Spring Training. For Ferguson, it will be adding to his arsenal.

“Does he need the third pitch to pitch out of the bullpen? Need? Probably not, but if you do get a handle on the third pitch and it’s a changeup, it does make it a little bit easier at times to get a right-handed hitter out,” Roberts said.

“And you’re also talking about a young player who we see as a potential starter, so to be able to develop that sooner rather than later, there’s really no downside.”