The Los Angeles Dodgers’ potential Opening Day starting rotation is largely set in stone, with Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and David Price expected to occupy the first three spots.
With those three essentially being locks, Julio Urias additionally has an inside track to claim the fourth spot. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is hoping for more consistency from the left-hander as he enters his first MLB season without an innings limit.
As for the fifth and final spot, the Dodgers are considering a handful of pitchers this spring. Two candidates are Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May, both of whom impressed during their first taste of big league action last season.
Each was deployed in multiple roles, beginning their Major League careers as starters before shifting to the bullpen. May and Gonsolin thrived in either capacity, but the expectation for this season is that they will start more often than not.
In the event May loses out to another pitcher for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, he will likely begin the season with Triple-A Oklahoma City. “I don’t see the bullpen role out of camp,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
“Anything can happen, things can change, but obviously we view him as a starter. We’re going to continue to build him up as a starter. I just don’t see it making a whole lot of sense, as a young player, to put him in the ‘pen out of camp.
“We understand he’s done some really good things for us. We’re just encouraging Dustin to control what he can control. Right now it’s get healthy, get on the mound and build up that pitch count.”
Gonsolin also faces tough odds of breaking camp with the Dodgers, but unlike May, would be considered for a spot in the bullpen.
“They’re in the same bucket, but I think Tony, there’s probably more of a conversation if things can break and fall out a little bit differently as far as role,” Roberts explained. “We certainly view both of those guys as starters.”
Roberts noted that the difference in age and the mileage on their arms is why Gonsolin could earn a spot on the roster as a reliever. “I think age is one thing,” Roberts said. “Innings, as far as where Tony’s at, where’s Dustin’s at overall.
“His mix is more scaled down. There’s a breaking ball in there but it’s pretty much a two-pitch pitcher.”
Another factor complicating Gonsolin and May’s chances of being included on the Opening Day roster is the offseason acquisitions of Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen.
“Yeah, I think as far as adding those guys as just bullpen pieces and obviously with Graterol, the upside and potential; Treinen, the history,” Roberts said of the potentially crowded bullpen.
“There’s only so many spots. But in the short and long view, we see those guys as starters and preserving that is important for their development and us as an organization.”
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