By Jon Weisman
It’s true that as of now, it’s uncertain who will fill out the Dodger starting rotation when the 2016 season begins April 4. Behind established veterans Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood — all lefties — the next healthy pitchers in line are Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, Joe Wieland, Zach Lee and Ian Thomas, as well as newly acquired Frankie Montas.
Then there are those who haven’t even made their big-league debuts, such as Jose De Leon, Jharel Cotton, Ross Stripling and 19-year-old Julio Urias. But any of those, along with any barely experienced veterans, would have to make quite an all-around impression by April to begin the season in the Majors.
“It’s possible, in that I don’t like to rule anything out,” Dodger president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said earlier this week, “but I prefer to let (rookies) get past the Opening Day bell (and) go get their legs under them in Triple-A, and the guys that are throwing the best, give them an opportunity if it arises.
“That being said, there are certain guys that might impress enough in Spring Training,” Friedman added. “It’s just important we’re doing it for the right reasons, but not just a guy throwing a few good games in the Cactus League.”
One lovely piece to strengthen the rotation would be Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is recovering from labrum surgery. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com on Friday that he expects to be ready for Spring Training and a member of the opening-week quintet.
Ryu is “playing catch up to 120 feet, restricted only by athletic trainers who want Ryu ready in February, not December,” wrote Gurnick, who spoke to Ryu at the Dodgers’ annual Children’s Holiday Party.
“Other than throwing off a mound and going all out, I pretty much can do everything I want to do,” Ryu said. “I’m on a great program and everything is going great. No discomfort, absolutely nothing.”
“I feel so good, I feel I could do it stronger, but I trust the trainers and medical staff with what they tell me to do. I’m sure in time, I will get back on the mound.”
Even if they could count on Ryu, it’s doubtful the Dodgers are done making moves for their rotation. In particular, because Ryu is also a southpaw, the Dodgers are likely to be eyeing a seasoned right-hander. With 161 2/3 Major League innings, Bolsinger is the most experienced righty starter in the organization, aside from injured Brandon McCarthy, who is would figure to return from Tommy John surgery in the summer.
Unlike 2015, when they didn’t need a fifth starter until April 14, the Dodgers play six games before their first off day next year, and will need a fifth starter as early as April 8 at San Francisco. (That’s a night before, in all likelihood, Clayton Kershaw pitches against Madison Bumgarner in their second starts of the 2016 season.)