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By Jon Weisman
It might have been the top performance of a Dodger starting pitcher this spring. It was certainly a cool illustration of what the Dodgers’ offseason machinations have wrought.
In the Dodgers’ 4-2 victory Monday over Arizona, free-agent signee Brett Anderson whipped through six innings in 74 pitches, taking advantage of the Dodgers’ defensively fortified infield to induce every out via groundball or strikeout (with one caught stealing).
Today, Joe Wieland, another offseason import and a leading candidate to shoulder some of the innings that the injured Hyun-Jin Ryu will miss, makes his first official exhibition start after nine exhibition innings so far. Wieland’s last Cactus League game action was a three-inning, 14-batter outing at the Alamodome 11 days ago, so this afternoon’s Camelback Ranch finale (yes, we’ve arrived at that point) stands as a test of endurance and approach, whatever the stats.
As valuable as Anderson might be, pitchers like Wieland will play a key role as well. The idea of a five-man starting rotation is a myth. The Dodgers averaged 10.7 starting pitchers per season in the nine-year Ned Colletti era (without even counting pitchers who missed an entire season, such as Chad Billingsley in 2014). The Andrew Friedman-Farhan Zaidi era figures to be little different.
The Dodger defense is solid, and there’s offensive depth at every position. If there’s a most likely place for things to go wrong for the Dodgers in 2015, it’s if no pitcher is ready to step in when prime forces like Ryu and Kenley Jansen are hurt. There are going to be games where a starting pitcher blows up or a reliever coughs up a lead, but you just don’t want there to be too many.
Wieland won’t quell those fears in a single exhibition start, good or bad. Today simply offers one of many steps for the entire pitching staff toward its goal of providing an overall level of excellence, same as Anderson’s start on Monday.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’d be nice to see Wieland do well today, even though it won’t mean anything if he doesn’t.