The Dodgers can manipulate their starting rotation in April to get 21 of their first 22 starts out of their top four starters. - Harry How
The Dodgers have four of the first 22 days of the season off, which could lead to some maneuvering in the starting rotation, if they choose to do so.
As we reached the point today of two weeks before Dodgers pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch, I decided to embark on a frivolous exercise. The Dodgers, if they so choose, don't have to use a fifth starter until Apr. 13.
There are rather large reasons why thinking of such a thing is futile, including the fact that it's Jan. 29, nearly nine weeks before opening day. Vin Scully has reminded us of such foolishness time and time again, saying, "If you want to make God smile, tell him your plans."
Another reason this errand is likely foolish is that the Dodgers at this moment have eight starting pitchers under contract for 2013. That will likely very well change before the season, either via trade(s) or injury, existing or otherwise. But for a moment, let's at least humor the idea.
Going into the season, which starts Apr. 1 at home against the Giants, players can be placed on the disabled list with a retroactive date up to 10 days prior to opening day, provided that they didn't play in any major league spring training games during that span. So starting a player on the disabled list to open the season doesn't necessarily mean he has to miss much time at all, and it could be as little as five days.
Last season, Ted Lilly was slowed by a stiff neck in spring training and needed extra time to start the season. The Dodgers had an off day after their opening four-game series in San Diego, which allowed them to use just four starting pitchers until Lilly was activated on Apr. 14. The move allowed the Dodgers to carry eight relief pitchers in the bullpen for the first eight games of the season, and it was how Josh Lindblom made his way onto the opening day roster.
Looking at the 2013 schedule, the Dodgers have a similar opportunity if they so choose.
Assuming for a moment that Chad Billingsley isn't a part of the opening day rotation — Mike Petriello at Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness did a great job of showing that history isn't kind to pitchers who try to avoid surgery to repair their torn elbow ligament — I am going to lay out the rotation like so:
Again, we don't know what will happen with Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, or Ted Lilly between now and opening day, but just looking at the schedule the Dodgers can go with those top four starters for the first 10 games of the season, and still keep everyone on regular rest.
- Apr. 1 vs. Giants: Kershaw
- Apr. 2 vs. Giants: Greinke
- Apr. 3 vs. Giants: Beckett
- Apr. 4: off day
- Apr. 5 vs. Pirates: Ryu
- Apr. 6 vs. Pirates: Kershaw
- Apr. 7 vs. Pirates: Greinke
- Apr. 8: off day
- Apr. 9 at Padres: Beckett
- Apr. 10 at Padres: Ryu
- Apr. 11 at Padres: Kershaw
- Apr. 12 at Diamondbacks: Greinke
- Apr. 13 at Diamondbacks: fifth starter
If the Dodgers are really in a bind, which seems unlikely, they could also use off days on Apr. 18 and Apr. 22 to postpone the second start for the fifth starter until Apr. 27, the 23rd game of the season.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Let's let the pitchers, and catchers, report to camp first.