PHOENIX -- Mike Bolsinger in 2015 saw his first extended taste of major league success. Now he wants more, though there are obstacles in his way in the form of a growing Dodgers pitching depth chart.
The Dodgers got Bolsinger off the scrap heap from the Diamondbacks last offseason after he was designated for assignment by Arizona, and he rewarded them with a 3.62 ERA in 21 starts, essentially a league-average 109 innings.
But at the moment he is probably seventh on the Dodgers' starting depth chart, with the return of Hyun-jin Ryu joined by new signings Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda. Bolsinger plans to use this as motivation.
"I'd be lying to you if I said it didn't [affect me], but that's the kind of stuff I try to look away from. I know what I can do," Bolsinger said. "I'm pretty excited to go out there and show everyone that I've progressed and gotten better from last year."
Getting displaced isn't new for Bolsinger, who had a 2.83 ERA in 16 starts at the end of July, but was sent down to the minors anyway once the Dodgers traded for starters Mat Latos and Alex Wood.
"When I went down there I was frustrated, but I pride myself in going down there and taking care of business. I didn't hold a chip on my shoulder or was pissed about anything," Bolsinger recalled. "When they told me about pitching in relief I was excited because I came out of a relief role in Oklahoma City in the bullpen really well, and it felt like second nature to me."
The Dodgers were unsure if Bolsinger in September would be used as a starter or in relief, so they had him make at least one appearance out of the bullpen in August. He did very well, allowing just one run in 4⅓ innings, with four strikeouts and no walks. Bolsinger followed that with 11 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings, and was called back up for the season's final month.
"I was ready to come back and do whatever they wanted to, but I think at that point my arm got tired at the end of the year," he said. "There's a difference between pitching a lot of innings in the minors and going up to the majors. It's a lot more stress on your arm [in the majors], and it kind of wore on me."
After allowing only three home runs in 16 major league starts through July, Bolsinger allowed eight homers in five September games, fizzling out with a 7.08 ERA in 20⅓ innings.
Bolsinger was actually the sixth starting pitcher used by the Dodgers in 2015, but the team used 10 starting pitchers before Bolsinger was back up for an extended run in the majors in May. This year, he's probably seventh on the depth chart, and sixth if Ryu isn't quite ready to go on opening day. So the opportunity will likely be there for Bolsinger again.
At the very least, he'll get a fair chance with manager Dave Roberts and the new coaching staff.
"He's come up to me in the middle of practice and pulled me aside. A lot of the coaches are very vocal and let you know what they're thinking," Bolsinger said. "It's actually a lot of help."
The Dodgers used 16 starting pitchers in 2015. They will probably use double figures again this year, so Bolsinger will likely get his chance again.