Mitch White was recalled Sunday morning to start in the series finale against the Rockies at Dodger Stadium, a move emblematic of the Dodgers’ pitching usage for the last two months.
This is White’s seventh different stint in the major leagues in 2021, making frequent trips to and from Triple-A Oklahoma City. On the roster, he replaced Edwin Uceta, who just completed his seventh major league stint this year.
Uceta was called up Saturday and optioned Sunday, the second time this season his term with the Dodgers lasted only one day. He also had a two-day stint.
White and Uceta have had the most major league stints with the Dodgers this season. Outfielder Luke Raley is next with five different trips to the big leagues. Alex Vesia, Garrett Cleavinger, and Zach Reks had four trips each. So did Darien Núñez, who wasn’t even added to the 40-man roster until July 8.
Núñez had a stretch this year that saw him optioned to Triple-A on July 21, recalled back to the majors two days later, then optioned again on July 24. The left-hander was called up on Thursday in San Diego after the Dodgers exhausted their bullpen the previous night with a 16-inning triumph over the Padres.
He did not pitch on Thursday, then was optioned to Triple-A on Friday to make room for Andre Jackson, whose two big league stints this year both lasted one day. Jackson was optioned Saturday to make room for Uceta, which demonstrated a necessity of Dodgers pitching plans over the last two months: fresh arms whenever possible.
“A lot of the conversations, to their credit, have been that it’s not performance-driven. It’s managing the roster and what we need for that day or the days coming,” manager Dave Roberts said. “That’s part of the flexibility of a player with options on your roster.
“I think the frustration of having to go up and down when you want to stick is real, and I understand and am sympathetic towards that. The main thing is the guys we’ve had up here that have gone up and down have performed well, and are going to help or have helped us win a championship this year. There’s a lot of good from that.”
The roster churn has been that way since the beginning of July, when Trevor Bauer was placed on administrative leave and Clayton Kershaw landed on the injured list in the first week of the month. By the end of July, Tony Gonsolin was on the injured list, too. David Price switched from relief to the rotation, and the Dodgers saw the major league debuts of Josiah Gray and Jackson, plus a larger role for White, albeit intermittently.
The acquisition of Max Scherzer at the trade deadline was a necessity, and so far he’s thrived with a 1.55 ERA while starting in five Dodgers wins.
Long stretches with no days off — since the start of July, the Dodgers had runs of 11, 10, and 13 straight game days, and Sunday is the sixth day of a nine-day stretch — had the Dodgers build in extra rest for the starters they did have whenever possible. But it required the need for high-volume relief usage.
Since the start of July, the Dodgers bullpen — counting bulk pitchers with at least four days rest as starters, and openers as pitching in relief — has pitched 47.3-percent of the team’s innings, with an average of 3.86 relievers used per game.
Twenty-four different Dodgers have pitched in August, including 21 pitching in relief, the latter two more than any other month in club history. So far, they are thriving, with a 2.12 ERA and 3.13 FIP this month, both marks best in the majors.
That includes two runs allowed in 11⅓ innings from White, who threw 7⅓ scoreless innings in relief on August 18. He was optioned the next day, just like Jackson, and both were recalled this weekend on the first day eligible after spending 10 days in the minors.
White pitched 5⅔ innings for Low-A Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday, which means he’s well-rested.
That’s an important trait to have for the Dodgers right now.