The Dodgers are down to just one decision to finalize their roster, with a few more certainties locked in on Monday. Dustin May will be the Dodgers fifth starter, and Zach McKinstry will make his first opening day roster.
May will start the Dodgers’ series opener in Oakland on April 5, after striking out 17 in 13⅔ innings this spring. Last week May said he would pitch in any role the Dodgers asked, though he hoped he remained a starter.
“I’m a huge routine guy. Just being able to stay on the five-day a couple times in a row now, it’s been great,” May said. “Just being able to feel my body out and get to the spot I was feeling last year at the end of the year and in the playoffs.”
David Price, who was sick and scratched from his Sunday start, pitched a few innings in a simulated game earlier Monday at Dodger Stadium, will start the year in a relief role.
“David’s going to be a leverage reliever with length in the bullpen. Tony Gonsolin is going to fit that same role, as well as Jimmy Nelson,” Roberts said. “We feel good with David, Jimmy, and Tony in the ‘pen, getting left and getting right out, taking down two, three, four innings potentially at some point. I expect those guys to even finish a game if it makes sense.”
That gives the Dodgers eight starting pitchers on their roster, and several options over a long season with a challenge of going from 60 games to 162.
“There’s going to have to be a little pitching gymnastics as far as this season. This is an unknown coming off last season,” Roberts said. “The ultimate goal that the players, coaches, and organization are aligned in the fact that we want our pitchers to be as sharp and as fresh for September and the postseason run.”
With those pitchers all in the bullpen, only one roster battle remains. The final bullpen spot is between left-hander Scott Alexander and right-hander Dennis Santana. The one that doesn’t make the active roster will still join the team in Denver as part of the taxi squad, as will catcher Keibert Ruiz and likely three other players.
Position players set
On Sunday the Dodgers reassigned Andy Burns, Elliot Soto, and Stevie Berman to minor league camp. None of them made the trip to Anaheim, which left only 13 position players left on the roster. Those are the 13 the Dodgers will roll with once the season starts in Colorado, including McKinstry, who Roberts on Monday confirmed would be on the roster.
With McKinstry, three of the four non-catchers on the Dodgers’ bench will be left-handed batters on most nights, along with Edwin Ríos and Matt Beaty.
“I’m excited for him,” Roberts said of McKinstry. “You look at our roster, and a potential right-handed bat on paper might fit a little better. But I like that Zach’s versatility, his ability to take a good at-bat off the bench, run the bases, and still throughout his career handle left-handed pitching.”
McKinstry, drafted in the 33rd round in 2016, and one of nine Dodgers picked that year to have reached the majors, made his major league debut last season. He hit .293/.310/.390 with a home run and a double this spring and started games at shortstop, second base, left field, and right field.
Roberts said McKinstry will start one of the first four games against the Rockies.