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Predicting the Opening Day bullpen

Predicting the eight arms out of the bullpen.

MLB: Spring Training-San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

With Opening Day officially less than two weeks away, there are still some uncertainties with what the roster will look like for game one.

The Dodgers will be rolling out 12 offensive players as well as 13 pitchers for their roster to start the season. With five being starters, that leaves eight arms for the bullpen. Now, it’s only a matter of figuring out who will make the cut, and who will be starting the season in Oklahoma City.

First, let’s get the automatics out of the way. Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, Pedro Baez, Ross Stripling and Dylan Floro. For right now, it’s safe to assume that those five are absolute locks.

It was reported on Thursday that Tony Cingrani will be starting the season on the injured list, so he won’t be getting one of the spots. Though, he’ll probably reclaim it once he returns fully healthy.

With the first five names I mentioned all being righties, the Dodgers will need a left-handed arm out of the bullpen. Insert Caleb Ferguson.

Ferguson is one of the biggest question marks in the Dodgers bullpen. This is a guy that the Dodgers envision as a starting pitcher down the road. With a crowded rotation, he likely won’t see time as a starter anytime soon.

A good move would be to send him down to triple-A, where he could rack up innings as a starter. However, it appears that manager Dave Roberts has plans for the 23-year-old. Roberts sees Ferguson as a stretch-arm coming out of the bullpen, hopefully giving the club 2-3 innings per appearance.

Ferguson is open to the idea, as he has stated he’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win. Kind of like a lefty-version of Ross Stripling, Ferguson’s ability to eat innings, especially as a lefty, are far too important for him not to be on the roster.

The Dodgers will likely need another left-handed thrower, so Scott Alexander will likely be the next man. Alexander, one of the best ground ball pitchers in the game, would fit in perfectly.

There are two players who will be fighting for the final spot. One left-hander, and one right-hander.

Let’s start with the right-hander, Yimi García. It’s easy to forget, but from 2014 through 2016, García was one of the Dodgers’ best relievers. In 76 games, the 28-year-old had a 3.12 ERA with a WHIP of 0.947. He had 81 strikeouts in 75 innings, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly seven-to-one.

Injuries have derailed his last two seasons, but early on in the spring he has looked fully healthy. In six appearances, García has not allowed a run. He’s struck out eight, and opponents are hitting only .182 off of him.

Switching things over to the left-hander, Julio Urías. Just like García, Urías has dealt with injuries over the last few seasons. Much like García as well, he’s looked phenomenal early on in Spring Training. He’s made three starts, striking out six in six innings. Opponents are hitting only .056 off of him, with the only hit being a home run.

The question mark with Urías is what the Dodgers plan to do with him to start the season. Roberts has said he’ll be on an innings limit, and likely won’t crack 100 innings for the season. He also said he wants to really save him for the second half of the season as the Dodgers make a playoff push.

So, what do they do with him? To be honest, not entirely sure. It’s still unclear if Roberts plans to keep Urías in the bullpen to start the season and keep him on a strict innings-limit, or send him to Oklahoma City where he can be on an innings limit as well.

It can be a toss up, but Urías is a guy that absolutely needs to be in the big-leagues, so he’ll get the edge. Also, having six righties and only two lefties would be too much of an imbalance.

It’s also worth noting that García is out of options, which could lead to him getting that final spot as well.

Eight-man bullpen: Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, Ross Stripling, Pedro Baez, Dylan Floro, Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson, Julio Urías

Names we’ll likely see this season join: Tony Cingrani, Yimi García, JT Chargois, Jaime Schultz, Brock Stewart

Also, Stripling may start the season in the starting rotation, so we can easily see one of those guys crack the Opening Day roster as well. Having a lot of bullpen depth is a really good problem to have. How Roberts plans on using it? We’ll have to wait and see.