Clayton Kershaw struck out eight in six innings in his final full start of the spring on Friday as the Dodgers lost to the Reds 6-5 at Camelback Ranch. Kershaw's final spring start will be Wednesday but he will be scaled back to three innings or so in his final tune up for opening day. The rotation around Kershaw is starting to take shape as well.
Both Chad Billingsley and Hyun-jin Ryu will pitch on Saturday; Billingsley in a minor league game in the afternoon against Indians Triple-A hitters on the back fields at Camelback Ranch, and Ryu against the White Sox at night in the big stadium.
Manager Don Mattingly said that one of Billingsley or Ryu will pitch the Dodgers' second game of the season, on Apr. 2 against the Giants. The other one is the fifth starter, but could pitch out of the bullpen for part of the first week of the season.
"We have some different options there that we'll continue to talk about, but not neccesarily skipping him all the way through. We have some off days and we can plug him into different spots," Mattingly said. "It depends on whomever that is. We left those goes together so we have options."
One of those options could be a backdated disabled list stint for Billingsley, who is still battling a right finger injury.
"We're being careful because of the finger, and making sure he doesn't lose that nail. I think that's the issue now. He's been able to flip some curve balls on flat ground but hasn't been able to use it in his bullpens," Mattingly said. "We're still making sure we don't go backwards with that."
By keeping Billingsley on the minor league side, both Saturday and possibly Thursday in an exhibition game against Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, the Dodgers could if needed place Billingsley on the disabled list backdated as far as Mar. 22. That could buy an extra roster spot for a week for one of the three excess starters Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano, or Aaron Harang.
Though if Billingsley is fully healthy and able to pitch, he could be the favorite to start the second game. The Dodgers are just keeping their options open just in case.
Mattingly said the plan is to keep Kershaw on regular rest the first time through the rotation, which means he would also start Apr. 6 against the Pirates. Josh Beckett, who will start Apr. 3 against the Giants, will get an extra day of rest the first time through the order, so that his second start will be Apr. 9 in San Diego against the Padres.
With a pair of off days wrapped around their second regular season series, here is a look at the likely Dodgers rotation coming out of the gate:
- Apr. 1 vs. Giants: Kershaw
- Apr. 2 vs. Giants: Billingsley
- Apr. 3 vs. Giants: Beckett
- Apr. 4: off day
- Apr. 5 vs. Pirates: Zack Greinke
- Apr. 6 vs. Pirates: Kershaw
- Apr. 7 vs. Pirates: Billingsley
- Apr. 8: off day
- Apr. 9 at Padres: Beckett
- Apr. 10 at Padres: Greinke
- Apr. 11 at Padres: Kershaw
- Apr. 12 at Diamondbacks: Billingsley
- Apr. 13 at Diamondbacks: Ryu
Obviously if Billingsley's finger continues to give him trouble, Ryu would start that second game, but that's a look at how the rotation shapes up.
- Lilly threw 59 pitches in five scoreless innings against Brewers Triple-A hitters, and allowed two hits, a walk, with three strikeouts. He will likely pitch another minor league game next Wednesday, throwing 75 pitches. Despite the relatively low inning total this spring, Lilly is healthy, but has battled both weather and being under the weather.
"He's had zero problems with his arm, coming off that shoulder surgery last year. It's just been everything else," Mattingly said.
- Hanley Ramirez had successful surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb on Friday. The 45-minute procedure was performed by Dr. Steve Shin at the Kerlan Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles. Ramirez will have his right thumb in a splint for three weeks before beginning range of motion and strengthening exercises. Ramirez sent out a picture of himself post surgery, and he has his thumb immobilized in a giant blue contraption.
- Mattingly said that with Ramirez out for eight weeks he would likely bat Andre Ethier fifth against right-handed starting pitchers, giving the Dodgers two consecutive left-handers with cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez.
- Luis Cruz hit a pair of no-doubt home runs on Friday, tying him with Alex Castellanos for the team lead with four long balls this spring.
The Dodgers begin the transition to the more nocturnal ways of the regular season with a night game on Saturday against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Ryu starts for the Dodgers on Saturday, while Jake Peavy starts for the White Sox. Six of the Dodgers' final eight exhibition games are night games.