In case you needed another reminder that opening day is near, we have entered the final week of Dodgers camp at Camelback. Only five games remain in Arizona before heading west for the Freeway Series, and the bulk of remaining exhibition games are under the lights.
Only two day games remain before the real stuff begins: Tuesday against the Brewers in Maryvale, and Saturday against the Indians at Camelback Ranch on getaway day.
Monday’s game in Peoria against the Mariners is a 6:40 p.m. PT start, and with Trevor Bauer starting it gives us an idea what the start of the Dodgers rotation will be once the regular season begins. Clayton Kershaw, the already-named opening day starter, pitched in a B game on Sunday, and with Bauer pitching Tuesday and presumably Walker Buehler on Wednesday puts them in line to also start the first three games in Colorado, in that order. The Dodgers have the next two Wednesdays off, so they do have room to maneuver if they want to flip the order, but having Buehler start the third game of the season also puts him in line to potentially start the home opener on April 9, an honor for the starter of four of the last five Dodgers postseason Games 1.
There are still a number of roster moves to make, though the decisions ahead are fairly clear. Forty-five players remain in major league camp for now, so technically 19 players still need to be trimmed in the next 10 days. Some of those moves are obvious.
Joe Kelly, who was sidelined early in camp with soreness, has yet to face live hitters this spring, and isn’t particularly close to doing so, after a 25-pitch bullpen session on Sunday. “He’s still trying to build arm strength, but the consistency of the throws is just not there,” Dave Roberts said. Kelly seems a likely candidate to open the season on the injured list.
Brusdar Graterol also has yet to face live hitters this spring after not throwing during the offseason. He’s looked better in his bullpen sessions, but it’s unclear if he’ll be ready by opening day, making him a potential IL candidate as well.
Brandon Morrow won’t be ready for opening day. He’s on a minor league deal so he’ll just be reassigned to the alternate site, with the hope he’s ready at some point during the season.
Tommy Kahnle hasn’t thrown in camp and is recovering from Tommy John surgery, so it’s a certainty he will open the season on the injured list. It will likely be the 60-day IL because the Dodgers will need to clear a 40-man roster spot for Jimmy Nelson, who has been excellent and healthy this spring and could be one of the many starter/relievers the Dodgers carry in their bullpen. “He doesn’t need to be a starter to make our club,” Roberts said of Nelson on Friday.
I’m not sure of the specific opt-out dates Nelson has in his contract, but per the collective bargaining agreement, if the Dodgers don’t agree by 9 a.m. PT on Saturday to add him to the opening day roster, they will owe him a $100,000 retention bonus as a major league free agent who signed a minor league deal. That would also come with an opt-out date of June 1 if he isn’t added to the active roster or injured list before then.
The other question is whether the Dodgers carry 13 or 14 pitchers. Thirteen pitchers means the bench will include both Matt Beaty and Zach McKinstry, while 14 pitchers means a position player has to go.
The presence of multi-inning pitchers like Nelson, David Price, and potentially Dustin May in the bullpen might mitigate the need for an extra reliever. If Graterol isn’t ready, and the Dodgers carry 13 pitchers, that likely means Dennis Santana and lefties Garrett Cleavinger and Scott Alexander are fighting for one spot.
Remaining spring schedule
- Monday: at Mariners (Peoria), 6:40 p.m. PT
- Tuesday: at Brewers (Maryvale), 1:10 p.m.
- Thursday: at Cubs (Mesa), 6:05 p.m.
- Friday: vs. A’s (Camelback Ranch), 6:05 p.m.
- Saturday: vs. Cleveland (Camelback Ranch), 12:05 p.m.
- Sunday: at Angels (Anaheim), 6:07 p.m.
- Monday, March 29: vs. Angels (Dodger Stadium), 7:10 p.m.
- Tuesday, March 30: vs. Angels (Dodger Stadium), 6:10 p.m.