Gavin Stone took the mound for the first time in the big leagues on Wednesday. The final line wasn’t particularly great, as an error in the first inning upset the rhythm of his outing, but it was an important first step for a highly-touted prospect which the Dodgers will rely on before the end of the season.
Perhaps almost as eye-popping as the crooked number of eight hits — two per inning — was the lack of strikeouts. Stone struck out only one, getting Nick Castellanos in the fourth inning on a slider, his third offering.
Stone struck out 168 batters in 121⅔ innings across three levels in the minors last season, and had 27 strikeouts in 24⅔ innings at Triple-A this year before getting the call to Los Angeles.
It is far too early for any sort of concrete judgment on Stone’s ability to miss bats at the highest level. We would have liked to see more than 2 whiffs on 17 swings on the changeup, but more so than just the results, the right-hander didn’t have his best stuff on Wednesday, as Stone himself stated in his post-game interview.
Gavin Stone breaks down playing through the emotions and trying to treat today as any other baseball game. pic.twitter.com/7Y7TmKtv1c— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) May 4, 2023
A lack of sliders against the Phillies was something that caught some attention, as Stone only tossed nine of them across 77 pitches. But his success throughout the minors and in the big leagues will be predicated primarily on the fastball-changeup combo.
Traditionally, we see starters using the changeup as an offering against batters of the opposite hand, but that’s not the case with Stone, which is why his changeup usage is so high.
Projecting the immediate future for Stone
As of right now, it is somewhat unclear whether or not Stone will continue with the big league club. The organization will surely want him to remain on a starter’s schedule, so a role in the bullpen is out of the question.
From the beginning, this debut felt almost like a spot start, with Dustin May reaching his career high in pitches his last time out, and would have been on four days rest on Wednesday had Stone not been called up. It was a good opportunity to give extra rest for a rotation with plenty of injury risks.
May is coming off Tommy John surgery, and will be handled carefully throughout the year, we all know about Clayton Kershaw’s history with back issues, not to mention Tony Gonsolin just came back from a sprained left abkle.
It made a lot of sense to give Stone — an arm the Dodgers will most surely need to rely on at some point in the coming months — a cup of coffee in the majors, as to make the transition easier, once he gets a more permanent spot in the rotation.
This is all to say that the underwhelming outing will not play into the likely decision of sending him down. The rotation is just full at the moment. Whether the Dodgers decide to use a six-man rotation the next time through will likely determine if Stone’s first stint in the majors will last beyond one start.