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Dodgers rotation is full of question marks as pitching depth gets tested

The Dodgers rotation has been battered by injuries, but it remains a solid bunch

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers find themselves in a particularly tough spot with their starting rotation, a rare position for them over the last few seasons.

Forget the fact that Walker Buehler is probably going to miss basically the entire season, recovering from Tommy John surgery, even if he might think otherwise. In the span of a few days last week, the Dodgers lost both Dustin May and Julio Urías to injuries, not to mention the scare surrounding Noah Sndergaard’s blister, which seems to be resolved, or at least manageable.

Even the most well-equipped of teams will feel the heat of losing two talented arms, such as Urías and May, and with the latter not expected back for at least two months, Dave Roberts will have to navigate through an undermanned squad for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps the biggest point of worry for the following weeks is not about what has gone wrong, but instead, what could get even worse.

Taking recent track record into account, over the last handful of seasons the Dodgers have more or less planned to be without Clayton Kershaw for a portion of the season, as the left-hander deals with chronic back issues. Organizational depth has been able to sustain that, but this year, however, it may not be the case.

Dodgers starting pitchers on IL

Starter Injury Timeline
Starter Injury Timeline
Julio Urías Hamstring maybe June 3-4
Michael Grove Groin on rehab in OKC
Dustin May* Elbow after ASB
Ryan Pepiot* Oblique after ASB
Walker Buehler* TJ surgery maybe Sept.
*60-day injured list

For the first time in a while, the Dodgers absolutely need Kershaw to be out there every fifth game, and it is gut-wrenching to even imagine a scenario in which that may not be the case.

Across 10 starts, Kershaw has a 2.98 ERA, 3.33 xERA, 1.099 WHIP, and a strikeout rate a shade under 30 percent. He was already fulfilling the ace role once again, as Urías dealt with inconsistent performances in 2023. Now, that’s only enhanced.

Following Kershaw, we have Tony Gonsolin placed into the number two role, not out of line with the numbers he put up last season, but probably more than you’d like for an arm who had a late start to the season. Gonsolin is averaging just under five innings per start, but has gone at least five innings in his last four starts, which has been a rarity for the rotation in the last week and a half.

Syndergaard is coming off two solid outings against the Cardinals and Twins. The hope is that he’ll settle into a rhythm after major struggles early on, but after that the rotation is a big question mark.

The expectation is that Urías doesn’t miss a significant amount of time with his hamstring strain, and in case he returns within the next couple of weeks, we should expect to see Bobby Miller back in the minors.

Gavin Stone looked arguably worse in his short stint with the big leagues but taking into account Miller’s late start to the season, Stone should still get the opportunity to hold down that fifth rotation spot.

Beyond these two highly touted pitching prospects, depth isn’t really there, with Ryan Pepiot out until after the All-Star break and Michael Grove on a rehab assignment working his way back from a groin strain. The next option would probably be Andre Jackson, building on his current long-man role.

This is all a far cry from the 2021 days of Max Scherzer, Buehler, Urías, and Kershaw, but maybe perception makes it look worse than it actually is.

In a period of shambles, how many organizations can claim to still field a pitching staff with a legitimate bona fide ace, a previous-season All-Star as its number two, an experienced innings eater as its number three, and two of the more highly-touted pitching prospects in the sport rounding out its top five?

The ideal world is rarely achieved during a 162-game season, but for a near worst-case scenario, the Dodgers might not be quite as worse off as one may believe.