The one thing we do know is that Nathan Eovaldi will join the Dodgers Friday at Dodger Stadium. While nothing is official yet, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that Eovaldi, who was pulled from his start after one inning Wednesday, is headed to Los Angeles.
What we don't know is whom Eovaldi will replace.
When Eovaldi was pulled after just one inning in his start last week, that was as a precaution in case Chad Billingsley continued to experience groin problems. Aaron Harang fouled a ball off his foot on Tuesday, but both Harang and Billingsley are healthy.
Indications are that Eovaldi will replace a reliever. While Michael Antonini seems like a logical bet to go, as he wasn't going to last longer than when Todd Coffey returned Sunday, I think Eovaldi will replace someone who is hurt. It doesn't make sense to me logically for the team to decide they would rather have Eovaldi than Antonini for two days, especially when the Nationals have two left-handed batters on their bench, same as the Braves.
Plus, if the team decided to switch Eovaldi for Antonini, it seems like something that would have been decided before Eovaldi took the mound Wednesday for Chattanooga. Eovaldi was pulled from the mound a little after the time Dodgers pitchers were done stretching and throwing, which suggests to me either a pitcher was hurt or aggravated something during that time.
Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, and Josh Lindblom all pitched Wednesday night, so it's not them, which is good since they are the best three pitchers in the bullpen. Mike MacDougal was down for a few days last week with the flu, and reportedly lost significant velocity per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
What is interesting is that Eovaldi is the sixth starter on the depth chart, and calling him up as a reliever goes against what manager Don Mattingly talked about all spring.
"I know [Rick Honeycutt] likes it, being able to bring a guy up. He feels the bullpen is a place for a guy to get his feet wet and get accustomed in small bites," Mattingly said at Camelback Ranch in March. "It will probably depend on how he's throwing and if he's really coming along as a starter I think we would be a little more hesitant to kick him into a different role."
But on some level, switching Eovaldi to a reliever, at least temporarily, makes sense.
First, this role is likely temporary, as the Dodgers are adding Coffey Sunday, then Ronald Belisario and likely Matt Guerrier next Friday. Secondly, Eovaldi is on the 40-man roster and is more trusted than say a Josh Wall, who is also on the 40-man roster but really much further down the pecking order.
Shawn Tolleson, the reigning Dodgers minor league pitcher of the year, has allowed no runs and four hits in eight innings in Double A this season with 15 strikeouts, but he's not on the 40-man roster yet. If the Dodgers are going to add Tolleson to the big league roster, it will be for a longer term rather than a week or so. His time will come, but the rest of the bullpen maneuvers need to play themselves out first (and we haven't even got to what happens when Blake Hawksworth is ready).
If the Dodgers do have a starter go down in the next week or so, they can use either Eovaldi or Jamey Wright as a spot start, and have off days on May 3 and May 10 should they need to shuffle the rotation.