Heading into spring training, the Los Angeles Dodgers seemingly had more starting pitchers than spots available in the rotation. Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu were considered the anchors of the staff, and off-season signee Dan Haren was expected to fill the role as the fourth starter.
That left Josh Beckett and to a lesser extent, Chad Billingsley, both of whom were coming off season-ending surgeries to compete with Paul Maholm, signed in the off-season, for the final spot in the starting rotation. Beckett earned the job and the Dodgers rotation was set, until it wasn’t.
Injuries of varying degrees and at different times to multiple pitchers knocked the staff of its’ course. With Ryu’s return from the disabled list Wednesday, the Dodgers now expect to get that elusive look at their envisioned rotation.
Following Ryu’s impressive outing in a 4-3 win over the Mets, Brian Wilson discussed the depth of the now healthy rotation, via OC Register’s Bill Plunkett:
Not too many teams have a good starting five – they might have a good 1-2, a decent third and hope for a fourth and fifth,” Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson said. “When you have five guys like we have, all of the starters kind of duel with one another, pass the baton to each other. It’s fun to watch that kind of good, clean baseball.”
Overall, the Dodger pitching staff ranks third with 21 wins and is seventh with a 3.34 ERA. In the National League, the Dodgers are second in wins and fifth in ERA. In the wake of Kershaw’s absence, the staff has largely been led by Greinke, who carries a 7-1 record into Thursday’s start.
The Dodgers have also received better than expected results from the back-end of their rotation, specifically Beckett and Haren. Haren jumped out to a 5-0 record and the veteran duo is now a combined 7-3. Maholm, who has been forced into starting due to the rash of injuries, has been the only starter to struggle on a consistent basis.
With Ryu’s return it sends Maholm to the bullpen and the Dodgers rotation stacks up as well as any on paper. However, before the Dodgers can perhaps lay claim to owning the best starting five, the pitchers will need to improve on their ability to consistently pitch deep into games.
Dodgers Update: Clayton Kershaw’s Impressive Return, A.J. Ellis Improving