Copyrighted by Sarah Morris, 2021
Entering spring training, many Dodger fans worried about what the Los Angeles Dodgers would do with all of their starters. They wanted President Andrew Friedman to trade one or two starters for a fabulous right-handed hitter, but luckily, Friedman did not listen to them.
Watching a baseball team struggling offensively can be both boring and frustrating, but a poor offensive team can win enough to go to the playoffs. For the last two weeks, before Sunday’s offensive explosion against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Dodgers had toiled to score a run, but the Dodgers are not a poor offensive team. Oh yes, it would be nice if the Dodgers had another right-handed hitter, but when both Cody Bellinger and Zach McKinstry return to the lineup, the Dodgers’ offensive woes should be over.
The Dodgers have the third-lowest ERA of 3.00 in the National League even with their bullpen having crippling injuries. Their starting rotation has performed brilliantly. Trevor Bauer arguably is the best Dodger starter, and Clayton Kershaw is pitching as he did in 2014, the last time he won the National League Cy Young Award. Walker Buehler and Julio Urìas continue to mature as Major-League starters.
Before Dustin May left wincing in pain with an arm injury Saturday night, he had pitched well. His curveball was coming along fantastically. In this young season, he had 111 strikeouts, after a season when he did not strike out many. His 99-miles-per-hour two-seam sinking fastball has been inducing soft contact.
As soon as the Dodgers get to Chicago, May will have an MRI. Anyone who saw May leave Saturday’s game does not have much hope for him not to have an extended stay on the IL. Dodger fans hope May does not need a surgical repair on his arm.
The Dodgers should have options to replace May in the starting rotation, but injuries have decimated the Dodger bullpen. Tony Gonsolin is on the IL with shoulder inflammation, but he has been throwing. The Dodgers want Gonsolin to build sufficient arm strength to go five innings.
The Dodgers should have an option of using David Price, a former Cy Young Award winner, as a starter, but last Sunday against the San Diego Padres, Price suffered a Grade 2 hamstring pull. He will be out for a while.
Since Jimmy Nelson has experience as a starter while with the Milwaukee Brewers, he should be the logical choice to replace May in the rotation, but the Dodger bullpen has experienced many injuries. The Dodgers need Nelson in the bullpen as the seventh-inning setup man. While he sometimes has struggled as a reliever, he has pitched better every day.
This season Corey Knebel, who finally is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2019, was the most consistent Dodger reliever before he injured his lat muscle. The lat muscle is a large muscle in the back connecting the arm. While Knebel claims he will pitch again during the 2021 season, Sunday the Dodgers put him on the sixty-day IL.
In the 2020 season, Brusdar Graterol was the most exciting Dodger reliever and played an important role in the Dodger world championship. Since Graterol could not throw much during the offseason in his native Venezuela, he did not appear in an exhibition game during spring training. When the Dodgers added him to the active rotation, he did not pitch well. Thursday, the Dodgers announced Graterol had discomfort in his right forearm. This caused Dodger fans to hold their collective breaths because usually when a pitcher has discomfort in his forearm, it means he needs Tommy John surgery. Of course, the Dodgers have shut down Graterol from throwing, but he remains with the team. It is unclear whether the Dodgers want Graterol to undergo an MRI.
This season the Dodgers invited reliever Brandon Morrow to spring training, hoping he could recapture the magic he had in 2017 when he helped the Dodgers reach the 2017 World Series where they lost to the Houston Astros. Sunday, manager Dave Roberts revealed Morrow won’t be able to pitch during the 2021 season.
During the upcoming series with the Angels, the Dodgers hope the right-handed Joe Kelly will return to the active roster. Last week in an interview with the Boston media, Kelly revealed he had surgery to remove a large cyst from the shoulder. The cyst weakened his shoulder, so he did not pitch often during the 2020 season. The Dodgers hope Kelly’s latest rehabilitation will turn into the reliever like the Dodgers signed after Kelly dominated the Dodgers during the 2018 World Series as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
Although the Dodgers have suffered injuries to position players, the injuries to the pitching staff have affected the team. It takes time for Roberts to figure out which reliever will be effective. Now, Friedman probably regrets trading Dylan Floro and Adam Kolarek.
Since the Dodgers have had incredible pitching depth, they will survive injuries better than most teams. No one knows if the Dodgers will repeat as world champions. This is why we watch the 162-game season.