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Dodgers: Jimmy Nelson Being Built Up as a Starting Pitcher, Further Clouding Rotation Picture

The Dodgers really could start the year with 8 starting pitchers.



The Dodgers are already incredibly depth in their starting rotation. So much so that the assumption is young arms like Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin will be pushed to the bullpen this coming season. So when Dave Roberts revealed that Jimmy Nelson was being built up as a starter this spring, it was very confusing. 

Doc revealed as much after Nelson’s start on Tuesday, though he has been saying it for a few weeks now. Nelson has spent the majority of his career as a starting pitcher, making just 12 appearances in relief.

Notably, he is also not on the 40-man roster, which means the Dodgers would have t make a move to retain him. 

An easy move could be the club transferring pitcher Tommy Kahnle (Tommy John surgery) to the 60-day Injured List. Or perhaps a trade is on the horizon. But Nelson has earned enough service time to where he would have to be part of the Major League roster or accept a minor league assignment. Given the place that he is at in terms of his progression, it seems more likely that he would opt out of his minor league deal, which he can do within the first few weeks of the season. 

If the Dodgers plan on keeping him in the big leagues, the questions then shift to Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin. Both guys have option years and would presumably be guys to get pushed off of the staff, albeit for a temporary period of time. 

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That would also fit the mold of what the Dodgers have been trying to do for the last few years. Keeping arms fresh and rotating young guys in and out of the rotation to give other guys time to build up. 

Whatever they decide to do, the Dodgers have a TON of options to work with. Expect the veterans in their rotation to not throw more than 80 pitches for the first few months of the season. 

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Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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  1. They are really testing the theory that “you can’t have too much pitching”. If I was soon to be 27 years old Tony Gonsolin, I’d be wondering why the team has so little confidence in him that they keep bringing in more starting pitchers to the point there might not even be room on the team, never mind the starting rotation, for him. The guy had a .83 WHIP and 2.29 FIP last year, those are ace like numbers, he’s been unbelievable with the work they have given him for two years straight, and is in his prime right now. May is 23, and can wait for his time, but for Gonsolin, its really not fair.

    • i agree with all of it. we could have gotten lemahieu, ozuna, and turner for the price of the bauer contract and not have this starting rotation mess.

    • jackson… they should make a deal for some good minor leaguers with their excess pitching. Gonsolin is solid, would be a great pickup for many teams. I don’t see Gonsolin wanting to be the next Ross Stripling. You can also assume that our rotation will still have Buehler, Kershaw, and Baur next year. So there’s still only two spots for too many pitchers. Trade Gonsolin for SOLID minor league depth. His contract and ability should net them something pretty good.

  2. I have Price starting the year in the bull pen with Gonsolin or Nelson in the #5 spot and the other pitching long relief. And, there will be plenty of innings available for both of them early in the season. This is the year we will see Gonsolin used and appreciated in the same manner Julio was last year.

  3. I must have read this wrong. I didn’t really see the idea that Nelson could possibly slot in ahead of May or Gonsolin did I? No of course not.

  4. Imagine you have to plan a strategy for your pitching after a 60 game season. You want to get to the playoffs and have your best pitchers ready to compete for another WS.
    How do you do it? There are multiple strategies but we aren’t privvy to what Friedman and Co have planned.
    Do you;
    1. Keep them on a regular rotation but limit their innings?
    2. Ramp them up slowly and hit the throttle in the 2nd half?
    3. Use more than 1 starter per game?
    4. Rotate them between starting and relieving?
    5. Spread them out and use a 6 man rotation?
    6. Give them occasional extra off days?
    Just food for tnought, and comment.

    • I have to believe they are going to slow role out some of their SP’s and they won’t like it. With Nelson, MAy, Gonsolin in tow… there’s just too many pitchers for not enough innings. I think they are going with, last year’s anomaly of a season means we need to tread lightly with our pitchers health. Bauer won’t like it if they do that. Kershaw won’t. Buehler won’t. There’s just TOO many pitchers. I really think I trade is possible. Trade a Gonsolin, for a young minor leaguer or two, and restock/replenish. I don’t want to trade Gonsolin. But he’s starter, playoffs aside, who showed he COULD start last season… for the best team in baseball. There’s PLENTY of value there. Not to mention we have Josiah Gray knocking on the door.

  5. I’d have Nelson on the roster and use him as a starter to begin the season (so you don’t lose him) but look to trade him early for young prospects. If he pitches well a ton of teams are going to want him at his salary.

  6. I guess I’m the only one who would love to see Gonsolin as a closer. 97. Multiple pitches. And he’s goofy.

    Seems like a perfect closer.

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