As Spring Training begins for the Dodgers the stories and talking points from last year have caught up to the coaches and players once again. Every team sustains injuries to their players and it’s something that both the players and the coaches try their hardest to prevent. However, the Dodgers could not stay healthy last year and a lot of people have speculated if 2017 will be any different for them. 28 different players spent time on the disabled list for the Dodgers in 2016 and a large majority of those players still have those injury problems following them this year. Certain player’s injuries were not as serious as others but for the starting pitchers it starts at the top and goes all the way down into the minors.
Clayton Kershaw, the teams ace, has said he had to change some portions of his training to prevent the same problem that made him miss over 2 months of action last year. He has limited his innings in his spring training outings so far and it shouldn’t be a red flag to fans. He’s doing what any person would do when recovering from an injury; not doing the same thing that would get him injured.
Rich Hill was added from the Oakland A’s at the trade deadline last year even though he had blister issues on his throwing hand throughout the 2016 season. He has stated that the blisters will not be a problem this year but his career numbers don’t back that up. The Dodgers are not expecting him to be an innings eater but will his contributions on the field be enough to be a number 2 starter on a team going for its 5th straight division title? That is a headline worth keeping an eye on as the year progresses.
Scott Kazmir was inconsistent last year. He stated, at the beginning of spring training, that he was compensating in his delivery for some pain he was feeling and had to change his mechanics because of it. This spring he said he’s working on having a consistent delivery that won’t cause the issues he was having last year.
Pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu missed significant time in 2015 and again in 2016. It’s hard to expect much from them this coming year. McCarthy was reported missing feeling in his pitching hand during one of his comebacks from the DL late last year. Although the current reports from camp are that he has moved on from his control issues it’s still hard to expect much from him this year. Ryu is not only recovering from a shoulder injury but also has elbow issues as well. The word on him this spring is that he’s not ready to face major league hitters yet and will need more time to build up his arm strength whether that is in the form of an extended spring or being sent to the minors for rehab assignments is still to be determined.
These are just some pitchers who if healthy would be in the Dodgers rotation along with Kenta Maeda. If any number of these pitchers go down again this year expect to see more of Julio Urias, Brock Stewart and Ross Stripling. Urias has questions of his own regarding an innings limit for the 20-year-old. However, giving him an extended spring would and should not be out of the question especially if the pitchers above him are healthy. The Dodgers want to avoid over working Urias so that he is fresher and stronger come October. Ross Stripling was a surprise for the Dodgers as well but he was called up due to the injuries ahead of him. Last year he was coming back from Tommy John surgery and you could see fatigue plaguing him as the year went on.
If the season started today and all the Dodger pitchers were 100% a rotation of Kershaw, Hill, Maeda, Kazmir, McCarthy/Ryu in that order is what we would see come opening day. Yes, the Dodgers have starting pitching depth and its quality depth as well not just quantity; but what good is depth if more than half of your starting pitchers are injury prone? If the Dodgers pitching staff stays healthy and their starters can consistently go 5 plus innings of work, they should win their 5th division title in as many years.