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Cole Hamels signs with a Dodgers team that is desperate for starting pitching

Hamels, whose last game was September 16, 2020, is expected to rehab at Camelback Ranch before joining LA

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The Dodgers quest for starting pitching continues unabated, with the latest acquisition 37-year-old left-hander Cole Hamels, who signed with Los Angeles on Wednesday, the team announced

News of the signing was first reported earlier in the day by Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times and Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

Hamels signed a major league deal that will pay him $1 million, per Buster Olney of ESPN. Both Bob Nightengale at USA Today and Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic say Hamels will be paid an additional $200,000 per start.

Hamels made just one start in 2020 with the Braves, starting the truncated season on the injured list with triceps tendinitis, then getting shut down in September with left shoulder fatigue. He pitched 3⅓ innings last year, after averaging 30 starts and 192 innings the previous 14 seasons, never less than 23 starts in one season.

After not signing with any team this season, Hamels held a workout in Texas on July 16, with the Dodgers among the reported 20 teams in attendance.

It’s unclear when exactly Hamels would be ready to join the team, but DiGiovanna reports, “Hamels, according to the source, will report to the team’s spring-training complex in Arizona to build up his arm strength before joining the Dodgers.”

While it’s reasonable to wonder what exactly Hamels has left in the tank given that he hasn’t pitched regularly for almost two years, the Dodgers are in need of all the help they can get on the pitching staff.

They have four starting pitchers on the active roster, including David Price — like Hamels an accomplished career starter who barely pitched since 2019 — who pitched the first three months of this season in the bullpen and has lasted longer than four innings just once this season.

Clayton Kershaw last pitched on July 3 and is currently on the injured list with left forearm/elbow inflammation. Kershaw’s planned simulated game on Sunday in Arizona — the last step toward his return to the rotation — was scrapped after Kershaw experienced more arm soreness. The Dodgers want that soreness to go away before clearing Kershaw to pitch.

“With Clayton, I think he’s just kind of going through the, in the training room, getting with our medical guys, our strength and conditioning, keeping his body right,” manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday. “I don’t really know, I can’t even speak to where he’s at in his throwing progression.”

The Dodgers want to make sure Kershaw is ready for October and don’t want to rush things, but pretty soon they will need someone to fill some innings to help get there.

Dodgers available starting pitchers

Pitcher Age IP since 2020 Last start
Pitcher Age IP since 2020 Last start
Walker Buehler 26 203⅓ Aug 3, 2021
Max Scherzer 36 178⅓ Jul 29, 2021
Julio Urías 24 207⅔ Aug 1, 2021
David Price 35 45⅔ Jul 29, 2021
Clayton Kershaw* 33 195⅓ Jul 3, 2021
Danny Duffy* 32 117⅓ Jul 16, 2021
Tony Gonsolin* 26 91⅔ Jul 30, 2021
Cole Hamels* 37 3⅓ Sep 16, 2020
*on injured list (or, with Hamels, soon to be) Age is as of June 30, 2021 | IP includes regular season and postseason

Danny Duffy, acquired from the Royals on July 29, is on the injured list with a left flexor strain, the same malady that sidelined him for five weeks earlier this season. His timetable is unclear, but he won’t be ready until late August at the earliest, with his role as starter or reliever possibly depending on how his rehab goes.

Tony Gonsolin is on the injured list as well with shoulder inflammation, which cost him the first two months of the season as well. Gonsolin’s stay on the injured list might be short-term, but he’s only averaging three and a half innings per start this season, with a walk rate four times higher than last season.

Two off days this week and another one on Monday allow the Dodgers to wait a bit to actually need a fifth starter, perhaps as late as Saturday, August 14 against the Mets in New York.

The Dodgers weathered pitching attrition in July, a month that saw relief pitchers throw almost as many innings (114) as starters (115⅓), an unsustainable bullpen workload for any team, let alone one that is 3½ games out of first place in the National League West.

In the attempt to avoid more bullpen games at all costs, the Dodgers are leaving no stone unturned. It remains to be seen if Hamels is a solution to that problem, but it’s probably worth taking a flier to see if he can pitch reasonably well for four or five innings, even if they have to wait a few more weeks to get there.

It’s the interim that figures to be the most turbulent.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers designated Yefry Ramírez for assignment. The 27-year-old Ramírez was called up to the majors on Sunday, then pitched two scoreless innings against the Diamondbacks. He was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday, with advanced consent.

Hamels will wear uniform number 38 with the Dodgers.