GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers might only need a fifth starter one time in their first 16 games. But that one game may see an unconventional choice on the mound, a decision that will likely affect the club's opening day roster.
With a Hyun-Jin Ryu on the shelf to open the season with left shoulder inflammation, the Dodgers next-best choices on the starting depth chart have all been optioned to the minors. Joe Wieland, Carlos Frias and Mike Bolsinger are all likely candidates to start for the Dodgers on April 14, the latest date the Dodgers would have to use a fifth starter, and all three were optioned to the minors on March 16.
When a player is optioned to the minors, he can't be recalled again until that optional assignment has lasted 10 days, commonly known in baseball as the 10-day rule. The exception is if the player is replacing another injured player, then they could be recalled within 10 days.
But the quirk that affects the Dodgers is that optional assignments don't begin until the regular season actually starts. That happens to be Sunday, April 5, the first day of the 183-day "championship season" per the collective bargaining agreement.
So even though Wieland, Frias and Bolsinger were optioned on March 16, for all intents and purposes they might as well have been optioned on April 5. Because of the 10-day rule, the earliest they could be recalled is April 15, one day after they are needed to start.
In other words, if the Dodgers want Wieland, Frias or Bolsinger to start that April 14 game, they would pretty much need to be on the opening day roster, losing the benefit of carrying an extra bench player or extra relief pitcher until that fifth starter is needed.
The other option is using that April 15 game as a bullpen game of sorts, with a long reliever like Juan Nicasio or possibly David Huff getting the start, lasting maybe four innings, then followed by a series of relief pitchers.
Chad Gaudin, like Huff a non-roster invitee, might have been one of the options to open in he bullpen as a long reliever, but his immediate future is cloudy. He has been shut down after getting scratched from a minor league start when he felt tingling in the fingers of his right hand on Thursday. Gaudin had an MRI on Friday morning and will meet with Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Monday to discuss the results.
Frias, it should be noted, is starting on Sunday against the Giants in Scottsdale, the Dodgers' final split squad day of the spring.
Because of off days on April 16 and 20, the Dodgers wouldn't need a fifth starter again until April 25 at the latest, meaning the bullpen game would only be a one-time affair.
By April 25, one of the minor league starters could be recalled with no problem, or perhaps Ryu himself might be ready to rejoin the rotation by then.