The Dodgers made the expected but underwhelming choice to option Tony Gonsolin to their alternate training site on Wednesday, one day after the right-hander delivered his third scoreless start in three tries this season.
This move was obvious because the Dodgers are off next Monday, and can continue pitching their five remaining starters on at least five days rest until at least Aug. 30, which is after Gonsolin’s option period would end. Keeping a sixth starter around in the interim when they would be unavailable for several days is a waste of a roster spot, so they added reliever Victor Gonzalez to the bullpen instead.
But Gonsolin wasn’t pitching like a sixth starter. We’re only talking about three starts, but Gonsolin didn’t allow a run in 14⅔ innings. He leads Dodgers starters in ERA, FIP (2.12), fWAR (0.6), walk rate (3.9 percent), strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.0, tied with Clayton Kershaw) and xwOBA (.289), and is second in xFIP (3.99) and K-BB% (19.6 percent).
“Tony did everything he can do, and that’s the most important part. I think we’ve got some some difficult decisions,” manager Dave Roberts said after Tuesday’s game, in which Gonsolin pitched six scoreless innings. “With Ross [Stripling] in the rotation and trying to get him on track, with Alex [Wood] coming back at some point, and with a taxed bullpen, there’s things that we’ve got to discuss internally.”
The writing was on the wall for Gonsolin when Roberts added, “We’ll do what’s best for all of us. But obviously, looking out whether it’s short term or longer term, Tony certainly going to be a big part of this.”
This is the second major league stint for Gonzalez, who was called up for six days on the Dodgers’ last road trip. He pitched in one game, allowing one run in one-plus inning on July 31 in Phoenix. The left-hander was added to the 40-man roster last November.
Gonzalez provides an extra arm for a Dodgers bullpen that pitched 19 innings in the previous four games, exacerbated by starting pitchers failing to complete five innings for three games in a row before Gonsolin on Tuesday. Dodgers relievers have pitched 48⅓ innings in the first 12 days of this stretch of 17 days without a day off.
“Our message to Tony was just to continue to keep that edge, keep pitching well, and be ready,” Roberts said Wednesday afternoon. “Certainly what he’s done here in these three starts is not lost on anyone.”