By Jon Weisman
With Joe Wieland coming up to start tonight’s game at Milwaukee to become the Dodgers’ ninth starting pitcher of the season — and Chris Heisey in the clubhouse, apparently waiting to be take the roster spot of a pitcher before Thursday’s game — these thoughts start to crystalize.
- The Dodgers’ use of Scott Baker, Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, David Huff and Wieland isn’t out of desperation, but almost a way of extending Spring Training evaluations, taking a look at a number of starting pitcher candidates before making a commitment.
- As long as they’re willing to pay the travel and administrative costs, the Dodgers can continue to use player options to alternate at least Bolsinger, Frias and Wieland through the rotation, essentially enabling them to use their roster spot for an extra position player or reliever in between their starts.
Any time you send a player back to the minors, he has to remain there for at least 10 days unless he is coming back to replace a player going on the disabled list. But with multiple optionable players at your disposal, the 10-day requirement becomes a footnote rather than a barrier.
Hypothetically, Wieland could go back down to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday, and Heisey could be activated. Then on May 12, Heisey could be sent down and Bolsinger recalled. Then the next day, Bolsinger could be sent down and replaced by another position player or reliever. Then as soon as May 17, Wieland could be back, and the cycle would renew.
I’m not saying the Dodgers will actually follow this plan, but it’s hard not to appreciate the way that the team’s depth enables it, or the front office’s willingness to exploit it.
Transaction fever might break by June, as the Dodgers firm up their evaluations, and also perhaps try to give some of the principals at Oklahoma City some stability. Wieland, for one, has been noticing, though he isn’t complaining.
“Down there, we honestly expect anything to happen – because just about everything has happened,” Wieland told Bill Plunkett of the Register on Tuesday. “We’ve seen guys go up (to the big leagues) for one day and then come right back. You’re here one day – then you’re outrighted. We’ve had three or four starters on hold, pushed back a day (from their scheduled day to pitch) and then nothing’s happened.
“We see it but we’ve kind of come to expect it. It’s not as big an issue as it was in the beginning.”
Health will play a big role in how much maneuvering the Dodgers continue to do. For example, Yasiel Puig will begin his rehab assignment as a designated hitter for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, and could be back in action as soon as next week. So could Kenley Jansen, who gave up three runs in his rehab outing today but told Ron Cervenka of Think Blue L.A. he would be “ready to come back next week.”
After throwing 25 pitches today, Kenley Jansen's back-to-back test is pushed back to Saturday and Sunday, Mattingly said.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) May 6, 2015
On the other hand, Hyun-Jin Ryu is still weeks away from a return after showing decreased velocity in his most recent bullpen session Friday, according to Plunkett, so the Dodgers could be rotating starting pitchers well into next month.
And as if that weren’t enough mystery, check out the weather report for the Dodgers’ upcoming Friday-Sunday series in Colorado:
Roster turnover is the new normal. Meet your new 2015 Dodgers, same as your old 2015 Dodgers.