Due to season-ending surgeries early in the 2013 season from starters Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett, 27-year-old right-handed pitcher Stephen Fife would see a solid amount of playing time. He stayed with the Los Angeles Dodgers until August of last season due to Hanley Ramirez’s shoulder injury which resulted in Fife being sent down in order to clear room for speedy shortstop Dee Gordon.
However, Fife was one of five players recalled back to the 40-man roster to start September. He proved to be a solid option as the fifth starter for the organization, starting all of 10 games and going 4-4 with a 3.86 ERA. These numbers would be enough for the organization to even give Fife a start amidst a rough patch for the Dodgers in order to rest ace Clayton Kershaw for a few extra days. Fife has also seen a few opportunitees in the bullpen, coming into games as a long reliever.
Going into this off-season, the Dodgers had a lot of question marks as to who would be their fourth and fifth starters in the rotation. When the Dodgers locked up Dan Haren with a one-year contract, they solidified the fourth man who will follow Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the rotation. Now the real question remains: who will be their fifth starter?
The answers to who this fifth man would rely heavily on whether or not the Dodgers were going to be able to sign another starting pitcher. After losing the bidding wars for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and following the Diamondbacks signing of Bronson Arroyo, the Dodgers ended up signing pitcher Paul Maholm to a one-year deal. The signing would come at an interesting time, where days later Josh Beckett would have his first bullpen session of spring training and felt none of the numbness in his hand that caused him problems in the past.
As of now, it seems as if the fifth spot will be passed over to Beckett or Maholm. Both of them have expressed being open to the idea of being moved in the bullpen although traditionally the two are starters. Billingsley, who has reportedly been having successful bullpen sessions as well, will likely come back in June or July, giving the Dodgers more depth in their rotation. With this being said, Beckett and Billingsley will also be returning from major surgeries and there’s no security in Maholm’s future success as well.
Now, what does all of this mean for Fife? Fife is doing all of the right things this off-season. He’s taking a slower spring training throwing regimen in order to preserve the health of his shoulder. Even with these precautionary measures, it may be a long shot to see Fife make his way back into the starting rotation granted that the everyone stays healthy.
What is promising amidst all of these fifth starter questions is that it stems from the fact that the Dodgers have a lot of depth in the back end of the rotation. For 2014, Fife isn’t a terrible option for the fifth spot, but with the two Dodgers pitchers regaining health along with their off-season moves, he’s likely to only see an opportunity to start if a pitcher is injured.
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