After yesterday’s walk-off loss to the Colorado Rockies the Dodgers were quick to add some familiar reinforcements to the bullpen. Ross Stripling and Kenta Maeda, despite their success and consistency as starters this season, will attempt to mitigate the indefinite loss of Kenley Jansen.
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) August 12, 2018
Hyun-Jin Ryu will be activated early next week, and will take over the responsibilities as the 5th starter in the rotation. Barring injuries, it would seem that the rotation will look like: Kershaw, Hill, Wood, Buehler and Ryu as the team attempts to shore-up their 6th straight NL West title in the tightly contested division.
The decision does not come as a surprise, as the Dodgers’ plethora of starting pitchers meant that even early this season conversations were being had about transitioning some of those options to provide depth to an inconsistent bullpen. With the loss of Kenley Jansen, the front-office could no longer delay the difficult decisions.
By and large, Kenta and Ross have been two of the most consistent starting pitchers for the team this season. They trail only Alex Wood in innings pitched, and Stripling has the second-best ERA of those starters – behind Clayton Kershaw.
Still, both pitchers will be a welcome addition to the bullpen, where they’ve enjoyed success in the past.
Ross has spent the bulk of his MLB career pitching as a long-man out the pen, and only because of injuries to the starting rotation this season was the door opened for his All-Star worthy campaign. The transition back comes at a good time for him. He’s already pitched almost 40 innings more than he did all of last season, and if his performance in the month of July was any indication of the effects of a heightened workload then management is making an astute decision in slowing down his usage.
For Kenta, the decision is a bit more painful. He’s been a workhorse this season, and well on his way to earning million-dollar incentives for starts and innings pitched. A move to the bullpen will ultimately forgo a well-deserved payday for Kenta. In the past Maeda has been vocal about his willingness to do what the team needs, and last season that meant forfeiting his spot in the post-season rotation to pitch as a high-leverage guy out of the bullpen. He excelled in the role, and was a key reason the team made it to their 1st World Series in 30 years. Between the NLDS an NLCS, he pitched a total of 5 innings without allowing a hit and striking out nearly a third of the batters he faced.
Dave Roberts credited Ross Stripling and Kenta Maeda for their "unselfishness." Maeda is likely to stay in the 'pen for the duration. As for Stripling?
"Our hope is to get Ross back in the starting rotation," Roberts said. "He's earned it."
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) August 12, 2018
Ultimately, the void of Jansen’s absence will be extraordinarily difficult to fill. The loss of an All-Star closer would be enough to derail most teams in such a tightly contested division-race, but with this move, the Dodgers may just have the depth they need to close games out. Either way, we should be wishing for a quick recovery from Jansen and hoping Kenta and Ross will continue to excel under the added pressure.
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