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Let’s Hope The Dodgers Don’t Use Bullpen Games in 2020


The Dodgers kicked off their 2020 cactus league schedule on Saturday night with a 10-4 win over the Giants in Scottsdale. Tony Gonsolin and Dennis Santana opened the game with scoreless frames and there were three home runs hit by sluggers Max Muncy, Enrique Hernandez, and Chris Taylor. You can’t ask for a better start to the spring than a convincing win over the Giants. After the win I started to think about the pitching staff.

Who’s going to be the Dodger’s fifth starter? There has been some recent chatter about the Dodger’s 2020 pitching plans. Let’s talk about what we know for sure first. Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and David Price are guaranteed to be the top three starters. If we believe what the Dodgers are stating now and throughout the winter, Julio Urias will finally have his baby kid gloves removed and allowed to be a normal everyday starting pitcher throughout the season. This is so refreshing to see (if it happens and Urias remains healthy) and I am really looking forward to seeing what Urias will bring over the course of a full season without a leash. Please let that kid pitch.

But what of the fifth spot? While it’s great that the Dodgers got Mookie Betts, they also lost a lot of pitching. Hyun-jin Ryu signed with the Blue Jays. Rich Hill is gone, signing with the Twins and Kenta Maeda will join Hill in Minnesota after being traded to the Twin cities. They did net flame throwing relief prospect Brusdar Graterol in the Maeda deal, and while he will help the bullpen, the options for the back of the rotation are a bit thin.

If it weren’t clear already, Roberts has no problem deploying the pitching staff in a nontraditional manner. (Eye-Roll)

Those options are only thin because the Dodger’s decision makers are limiting their options. Reports are surfacing that rookie Dustin May is probably going to start the season at Oklahoma City. Tony Gonsolin is seen more as a reliever, and while he won’t start, he could break the club as a reliever. So if May and Gonsolin are not getting those starts, then who?

There are three options for the Dodgers, and I have a feeling I know which one they are going to choose. The first option for the fifth spot is Alex Wood. The southpaw is returning to the Dodgers for his second stint after an injury plagued season with the Reds. He’s looking to make a comeback but what kind of results the Dodgers will get from him is anyone’s guess.

Then there is Jimmy Nelson. The Dodgers signed the former Brewer earlier in the winter when we thought the Dodgers weren’t going to do anything. Nelson has hardly pitched over the last two seasons after recovering from Tommy John surgery. Before the injuries Nelson was a front of the rotation guy in Milwaukee. Who knows what we can expect from him, but if he impresses maybe he can grab that fifth rotation spot.

The third choice is the one I hate the most. Nobody gets the spot and the Dodgers use a combination of off-days to skip the turn when it comes up in the rotation and bullpen games during the weeks when they can’t. It’s a stupid option because if you don’t have a good bullpen then you will lose the majority of those games. The Dodgers don’t have a good bullpen so I don’t understand why they would even consider this.

Wood is probably the best choice, and I would be fine to see what Nelson has if anything. Maybe Ross Stripling can swing a couple of starts? I would be fine with that too. Just please don’t use bullpen games or openers. Use common sense this year.

Scott Andes

Scott Andes: Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic

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Scott Andes
Scott Andes: Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic

17 thoughts on “Let’s Hope The Dodgers Don’t Use Bullpen Games in 2020

  1. Scott, it’s a definition of insanity and we know what that means here. Also Roberts has already said he will play shuffleboard again with the lineup as far as positions, being in and out, and place in batting order. I understand wanting to get everyone some AB’s, but honestly this shuffling contributes to offensive inconsistencies we witnessed on many occasion last year.

  2. Not much to look forward to, with regards to relief pitching. The only thing positive is that DR has to keep a reliever n the game for three batters. He no longer has the luxury to play his matchup cards very often, and burn out the bullpen. It still might be too early to tell if there are huge holes in the bullpen, but like I said, not too impressive.

    Well, Urias finally graduated from diapers to training pants. He is apparently now considered a big boy now, so it is now up to him to graduate to big boy’s undies and claim that 5th starter spot…. Greenhorn Mark Pryor has the potty training duties now.

    Fans are booing the ASStros! Love it! The damage is done, and any apologies now would be too little, too little too late. ASStros had their chance to somewhat calm the storm, and they foolishly passed on the opportunity. I am looking forward to some well deserved retaliation. ASStro hunting season is open!

  3. I have watched the first two games. The bullpen so far, outside of giving up a few bases empty homers, has looked pretty decent. Jansen threw a clean inning today. Wood is expecting to be a starter. He even stated on air today that he would not have signed with the Dodgers unless that was the case. A couple of the kids have been pretty impressive and Graterol and Gray have not even pitched yet. Kasowski threw a 7 pitch 1-2-3 inning against the Giants. As for the lineups, It is what it is. We all know that is the kind of thing the Dodgers do now. Betts will be the leadoff hitter a majority of the time. Joc will step in against some RH pitching. Joc is not totally healthy right now, he has a issue with his side. It will all work itself out in the end. Urias is penciled in to be the 4th starter, so there is a chance that 4 of their 5 starters are lefty’s. Nelson is still out. May threw a BP today. But I have no trouble with him starting the year at AAA. The more experience the kid gets, the better it is for him. As for Gonsolin, he slides into that swingman’s role really easily. I am not going to judge the pen until a few things happen. !., I want to see how the 3 man rule plays out. 2. I think you need at least 50 games to know what you really have out there. 3. I want to see how Jansen, and Kelly’s work this offseason has changed or improved their repertoire. And 4. I want to see how the new guys mesh with the team. By the end of May, we should have a much better idea of what we have.

    1. Definitely too early to tell, whether or not the pen has what it takes. Three man rule will really put the pen to the test…. I think for the better. It will take at least 20-25 games, before they can really determine anything. A lot also depends on how strong the starting rotation is going to be. If starters can give at least 6-7 strong innings, that would be a plus. A strong return to form by Jansen and Kelly is almost a must.

  4. Once again we will play the game of:
    what I would like to see VS what I am likely to see

    My rotation depth to start the season
    Buehler / Kershaw / Price / Urias / Stripling / May / Wood / Gonsolin / Nelson


    What I expect the Dodgers to do
    Kershaw / Buehler / Price / Wood / Urias / Nelson / May / Stripling / Gonsolin

    1. I agree with the premise Mexivin. I would rearrange the list with May as #5 and Wood #6. I like May and believe he is ready. I have been promoting a 6 man rotation for a few years now. Stripling #7 should get plenty of work during the summer. I have Gonsolin and Nelson in the pen. I think. Spot starts for the top 3 should be early and often in my estimation. We have the depth to give everyone ample rest through the summer. I think we will have the Division wrapped up by National Apple Dumpling Day (17th) , but Home Field is still a thing so resting starters until National Mud Pack Day (30th) may not be practical. The way Roberts likes to do it is to spread the load over 162.

      This team is loaded. I see no reason why having the starters ready for October shouldn’t be easily done.

      1. Well, Guys,

        Every year the Dodgers boost a cornucopia of 7-8-9 potential starting pitchers, only to fall prey to pitchers unable to meet their expectations, fall to injuries, and by August are struggling to put forth 4 capable starters.

        I agree, in a perfect world, a 6-man rotation would be ideal. It would put less strain on a pitcher’s arm, give him a chance to adjust and get into a consistent workout routine. The beginning of the season is the best time to try it, when arms are fresh. It could work, and I think they should try it. What really frustrates me, is when Management feels a pitcher needs an extra days rest. It not only disrupts the routine of the ”apparently” tired pitcher, it disrupts the routine of every other pitcher in the rotation. A 6-man rotation would eliminate the need for extra days rest. Kershaw was a very structured and disciplined pitcher, who liked to stick to a strict workout and pitching routine. I think the past couple of years his injuries and inconsistencies were a result of disruption in his regimen.

        Micromanaging the team, especially the starting pitchers and bullpen, are not the way to go, IMO. 3-man rule in pitching will eliminate a lot of the unnecessary managerial moves due to matchups and use of ”so called” specialists. Abuse of the bullpen will be minimized, for sure.

  5. That sounds about right Badger. I would expect the Dodgers to have the division won by 9/17. I do like the concept of a 6 man rotation, in fact it makes a lot of sense with the brittle nature of the starting staff. That alone would lessen the work load throughout the season.
    Kershaw has a lot of wear on his arm. Price has some recent history of injuries. Urias has not pitched a full season yet. Wood was injured most of last year.

    This is the year for LA to win the WS. The team is loaded. If not this year, not sure when. That is assuming that Betts is only here for 1 year.

  6. Well the consensus is that May is beginning the year at AAA. With the 5 man rotation being Kersh, Buehler, Price, Urias, and Wood. Wood has looked solid in camp so far. In fact Orel said on the broadcast that he has never seen Wood throw better, including the year he went 16-3. Depending on who they keep in the pen, Gonsolin may or may not be there. Right now the locks would be Baez, Trienen, Jansen, Kelly, Kolarek, Stripling, Nelson, if he is healthy, and Alexander. They can carry 13 pitchers, so the 5 starters and maybe 8 in the pen. So there is room for one more. Ferguson will probably head back to AAA. Doubt any of the non roster guys have a shot at making the team.

    1. Orel mentioned during the game with the Giants that DJ peters would by now have been giving at least some looks up here but what has kept him from the big club besides the depth above him is his swing and miss, K’s. Last year between Tulsa and OKC he struck out 168 times in 457 AB’s So it will be interesting to see if he can shake that “Billy Ashley” syndrome

      1. That is a good comparison Paul. I saw Ashley a couple of times. He hit some bombs, but making contact was never his thing. Remember Rob Deer? He hit 230 career homers, and struck out 1409 times. Had a career average of .220. 1 year he hit .170 and had 25 homers. The guy had 20 plus homers 8 years in a row. But he led the league in K’s 4 times. The year he hit .170 he struck out twice as many times as he had hits. Pitching looked good up until yesterday. Santana struck out the side, so he looked good.

  7. There has been absolutely nothing impressive at all about Gore. I do not waste a roster spot on that guy. I don’t care if he is Cool Papa Bell fast. At leas Bell could hit. This dude cannot even walk. Had a 3-0 count and struck out. Kasowski was impressive again yesterday. Think he might make an impact in 21. All of the lefty’s being considered for the BP have options left. Something I did not know until yesterday. I got in touch with Tim Neverette on twitter and told him he made a mistake on yesterday’s broad cast. He said the 77 team was the last Dodger team to have 4 guys with 30 or more homers…..wrong….it was the 97 team. Piazza, Mondesi, Zeile and Karros. The 77 Dodgers were the first major league team to ever have 4 with 30 or more. It has been done 10 times since. With the Rockies doing it 4 times, and 3 of those were in a row, 95, 96, and 97.

    1. Michael, I heard that as well from Neverette and knew immediately he was wrong. It was an amazing feat back in 1977 and the team hit 191 HR’s I believe in 1977. And to think that the Twins last year set a new record with 5 guys with 30+ HR’s. But I also heard that 14 teams last year set their individual franchise records for team home runs in a season. But what makes 1977 more amazing to me is that 9 years earlier in 1968 the Dodgers hit a team TOTAL of 67 HR’s.

      1. U R right They had 11 guys in double figures. All of the starter were in double figures. Garver, Sano, Rosario, Kepler, and Cruz. Cruz hit 41. Only Cruz and Rosario drove in 100 plus runs. And Rosario, even though he hit 9 less homers than Cruz drove in 1 run more. The hit 307 as a team. 28 more than the Dodgers. But the Dodgers matched them with 11 guys in double figures.

  8. I also concur , Michael that Gore is a bore and does not warrant a roster spot. That 26th man needs to be able to do a bit more than what Gore would bring. problem is he does not know what a bat is.

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