LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers on Saturday activated newcomer Zac Rosscup, adding to their bullpen before the middle game of their three-game series against the Angels at Dodger Stadium. The corresponding move was sending down Friday starter Walker Buehler to the minors.
Buehler was technically optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City, but he’s actually headed home to Kentucky for a few days first. His next game action is to be determined.
“We haven’t worked that out yet, where he’s going to pitch,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Simulated game, in a game, we still have some time to think about it.”
Buehler has a 3.45 ERA in 11 major league appearances this season, including 10 starts, with 59 strikeouts against only 13 walks in 57⅓ innings. In his second year removed from Tommy John surgery rehab, the Dodgers plan to limit his innings this season. Buehler is up to 73⅓ innings in the majors and minors so far in 2018.
Since he started on Friday, Buehler wouldn’t have been available for the final two games this weekend, then there is the four-day All-Star break, making his option an easy decision.
“It’s workload, it’s roster management,” Roberts said. “Walker is a big part of what we’re trying to do.”
Buehler through Friday has accumulated 99 days of major league service time. If he stays optioned for at least 10 days and doesn’t return early by replacing an injured player, the most days Buehler could accrue through the end of this season is 168, four shy of a full season. Down the road, that likely means he won’t qualify for free agency until after the 2024 season, instead of 2023.
Walker could return as early as the Dodgers’ fifth game after the break, which is in Philadelphia. The Dodgers will decide during the All-Star break whether they plan to use a six-man rotation for at least a time or two through the rotation, with a long stretch of game looming.
“You’re looking at 17 straight games, and the possibility of a six-man rotation makes sense on some levels,” Roberts said. “We’re still talking it through with the guys and their comfort level, and the organization’s thoughts on what’s best for everyone.”
The new guy
The left-hander Rosscup was claimed from the Rockies on Wednesday, and when he gets into a game will be the 27th pitcher used by the Dodgers this season. The franchise record is 31 different pitchers used, set in 2015 and 2016.
Rosscup, 30, hasn’t pitched in the majors this season, missing the first two months with a blister on his left hand.
“It popped up in spring training. I was having a tough time locating my pitches and putting pressure on the ball,” Rosscup said. “It started out kind of hot when I first got to rehab, but after a few outings it went away.”
He pitched in 10 games on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque, posting a 1.08 ERA with nine strikeouts and three walks in 8⅓ innings.
“Zac has been primarily used against left-handed hitters. From what I’ve seen and heard, it’s 93-95 at kind of a three-quarters slot, and a really good slider in the upper 80s,” Roberts said. “For us it’s a one-inning situation, or a specialty lefty, no more than one inning.”
Last year Rosscup averaged 93.76 mph on his four-seam fastball, per Brooks Baseball, and 86.20 mph on his slider. Rosscup will wear number 59 with the Dodgers.
Ferguson shining in relief
Sending Buehler down means that Caleb Ferguson sticks around for a little while in the bullpen. The rookie left-hander pitched two scoreless innings on Friday night, with three strikeouts, and has a 4.18 ERA with 28 strikeouts and seven walks in 23 innings in his first taste of the majors.
The Dodgers plan to develop Ferguson as a starter, though his last five appearances have been multi-inning relief outings, posting a 1.38 ERA with 16 strikeouts and just one walk in 13 innings.
“Major league experience, I don’t see any downside,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s learning from a lot of big league pitchers and to see the work ethic and how they go about preparing, to give him an opportunity to be in a big league ballpark and get big league hitters out. That runway we’re giving him, he’s capitalizing on it.”