Emmet Sheehan was dominant down the stretch for the Dodgers in the regular season. The 23-year-old right-handed pitcher allowed only three runs over 13 ⅔ innings while striking out 24 batters in his final three starts of the season. Sheehan’s late season success helped him edge out left-hander Ryan Yarbrough for a spot on the Dodgers’ NLDS roster announced prior to the series opener Saturday.
Sheehan was called upon much earlier out of the bullpen to be a bulk pitcher in the NLDS than planned. No one could have predicted that the Dodgers would need to bring in Sheehan, or any other reliever, in the very first inning of the series.
The five-game division series is far from over, but it did feel as though the Dodgers were trying to keep their head above water in a fight for their postseason life on Saturday night.
This postseason’s flavor is very different from previous years for the Dodgers. Without Dustin May, Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin, or Julio Urias, they look to a group of four rookie pitchers to not only make their MLB postseason debuts, but also to do so in a significant capacity.
Sheehan figured to piggyback Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, but things quickly went array for Kershaw. The veteran southpaw couldn’t get out of the first inning Saturday evening in Game 1 of the NLDS. Sheehan went from a piggybacking role to a bacon-saving job in less than an inning.
Last October, Emmet Sheehan, Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove were in Arizona during the postseason looking toward their future opportunity to impact the major-league team in 2023.
Sheehan explained how the reset in the minors refreshed his competitive drive to succeed at the major-league level. He pitched in an intrasquad scrimmage at Dodger Stadium last week prior to the start of postseason play.
Sheehan’s 3 ⅔ innings pitched was the most for a Dodgers pitcher in Game 1. Dave Roberts used six pitchers in the first game against the Snakes which is less than ideal. If Sheehan hadn’t pitched admirably after the worst start of Kershaw’s 16-season MLB career, the Dodgers may have had to resort to using a position player in the later innings so as not to burn through the entire bullpen in game 1.
The D-backs did score three runs on four hits off Sheehan, including a Corbin Carroll solo home run in the second inning. Sheehan settled down thereafter. Shelby Miller also pitched two innings of scoreless ball, and Caleb Ferguson didn’t allow any further damage in the top of the ninth.
Sheehan ended up throwing 71 pitches to get his 11 outs, with four strikeouts.
Sheehan’s meteoric rise through the Dodgers’ system has been quite remarkable.
Sheehan was playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League in 2022, having spent most of his season with the Single-A Great Lakes Loons. The Dodgers called him up directly from Double-A this year when he made his MLB debut on June 16.
After his first stint with the Dodgers in the summer, he was called back to the majors with expanded rosters on September 1. With a plethora of pitching injuries, Sheehan’s youth and health was welcomed to the pitching squad.
The dip down to Triple-A in early August did Sheehan some good, and his 39-percent strikeout rate in the last month of the season was impressive enough to earn a spot on the pitching staff for the first round of the playoffs.
Sheehan likely will be unavailable for Game 2, but the rookie right-hander might be called upon again should the Dodgers go deep into the series. With the Dodgers’ insistence that nothing is physically wrong with Kershaw, and the plan remains in place for him to start Game 4, Sheehan may be needed for additional piggybacking.