LOS ANGELES -- There is a reason Zach Lee was not among the pitchers who joined the Dodgers for the Freeway Series in Los Angeles, but rather stayed back at Camelback Ranch in Arizona. Lee is no longer under consideration for the fifth starter spot to open the season.
"Where we stand today, it's [Carlos] Frias or [Ross] Stripling," manager Dave Roberts said after the Dodgers' 2-1 loss to the Angels on Thursday night.
Frias made the trip with the Dodgers, which puts him one step ahead in the competition depending on your point of view. Though to remain in line to start on April 8 - the first date the Dodgers will need a fifth starter - Stripling would need to pitch again Sunday, and he's more likely to face hitters at Camelback Ranch in Arizona rather than in San Diego or Los Angeles since Sunday is a mandatory off day for the major league team before Monday's opening day.
But there is another wrinkle in this, too.
The Dodgers need to submit their opening day roster, which must include the fifth starter, on Sunday at 9 a.m. PT, before Stripling would start and one day before Frias would throw a side session to remain ready after pitching on Wednesday.
Roberts confirmed that timetable, then smiled when asked if the decision had already been made.
"We have a pretty good idea," he said.
Both Frias and Stripling have been impressive at times this spring, though both faltered a bit in their last outing. Stripling allowed three home runs and five runs in five innings in a start on Tuesday, while Frias walked five and allowed four runs in 3⅔ innings on Wednesday.
What is noteworthy is that Roberts hinted the club wouldn't necessarily have a short leash on the fifth starter for roster purposes, that it would likely be more than a single spot start.
"Performance definitely means something, so I wouldn't just limit it to one start. The fifth starter I would assume can make a couple starts, and then evaluate from there," Roberts said. "But it's also based on how they are throwing."
The Dodgers and Angels will play one more at Dodger Stadium on Friday night before shifting the Freeway Series down south. Kenta Maeda makes his final tuneup start on Friday and is expected to last four innings and throw roughly 60 pitches. Hector Santiago, another left-hander, starts for the Halos.