What started as a potential preseason concern for the Dodgers turned into a sudden midseason conundrum.
Less than two months into the program, the team’s initial launch may need to be strengthened.
It’s the result of injuries at the major league level, coupled with on-farm thinning options.
And while Major League Baseball’s trade deadline won’t be until early August, speculation about the team needing to add more to the mound is already starting to begin.
It’s a problem that was under the microscope in a 9-3 loss to the first-place Tampa Bay Rays on Friday when Noah Syndergaard gave up six runs in six embarrassing innings, which took his average to earned runs at 6.27 – eighth-highest in the majors among pitchers with at least 40 innings.
“Just not a lot of positive emotion right now when I think about pitching,” Syndergaard said crestfallen after giving up eight hits, a home run and a lot more hard contacts. “Throwing what I have right now is not enough to successfully fight a team like this.
At the moment, however, the Dodgers are running out of other options, with Syndergaard (1-4) one of only three members of the team’s planned starting rotation currently uninjured.
Julio Urías will be out for at least another week with a hamstring injury. The team will know more about their schedule after kicking off a bullpen session on Saturday. Dustin May won’t be back until late July at the earliest. He will be stopped for another four to six weeks after recently receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection for his tense forearm.
While Syndergaard continues to struggle, Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin are the only veteran pitchers the Dodgers have had.
And although prospects Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller showed potential in their recent MLB debuts (another injured prospect, Michael Grove, is set to return from a groin strain), getting reinforcements from Deadline rotation is quickly looking more like a need for a World Series-focused Dodgers Club.
“Potentially,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Friday when asked if the state of the shorthanded Dodgers’ rotation would affect their trade deadline priorities.
“I mean, right now it’s early,” Friedman added. “I think using the first three and a half months to assess your roster and what the needs are helps crystallize how you approach things in July.”
Friedman remained optimistic about the current group, noting that “so far, [our starting pitching] has been fine.
He remains convinced that Urías’ injury won’t be a long-term problem. And while May’s status is more uncertain – Friedman said surgery was “initially” a possibility for May but is now considered off the table – he still expects the right-hander to return to full power later this season.
“Right now, with where we are, it’s going to be a bit more complicated if we have more injuries,” Friedman admitted. “But we are thinking about it and trying to be as prepared as possible if it happens. Our goal is that this does not happen. »
Getting back to a fully healthy and efficient rotation, however, is increasingly looking like a long shot.
Even if Urías and May return, Kershaw and Gonsolin offer no health certainty after each spent time on the injured list in recent years.
Syndergaard, meanwhile, is closing in on being an unviable rotation piece.
“We have other options down the road,” manager Dave Roberts said when asked how much longer the Dodgers can keep starting the right-hander. “But I think right now we have to keep running it and expect better results.”
Indeed, the Dodgers aren’t panicking just yet, rolling with Syndergaard every five days while giving their young pitchers increased opportunities.
But continuing to bet on this combination represents a long-term bet.
Rotation issues are on the rise. And the Dodgers’ deadline plans are only growing in importance. Although they entered the season confident in their starting pitch, they might have no choice but to eventually acquire more.