LOS ANGELES — A little more than one week away from the August 1 trade deadline, it’s abundantly clear the Dodgers will be active, looking to add multiple players. Chief among the needs is starting pitching.
Manager Dave Roberts said he’d be surprised if the Dodgers rotation will be the same a week from now.
“Given the experience and the health of the starters, this is probably as forefront of mind, just kind of the bucket of pitching in general, as we’ve been in my tenure here,” Roberts said.
One addition will be Clayton Kershaw, who could return from the injured list at some point next week, depending on how the Dodgers map things out. But they need more than that.
Since Kershaw’s last start, on June 27 at Coors Field, when he left after six scoreless innings with shoulder soreness, Dodgers starting pitchers have a 6.12 ERA that ranks 29th in the majors during that time.
On the season, Dodgers starting pitchers have a 4.67 ERA which ranks 22nd.
Last week the Dodgers won four of six games against the Orioles and Rangers, two American League division leaders each with a top-five record in the sport. But it was in spite of a starting staff that allowed 28 runs in 29⅔ innings. The rotation was saved by a 1.21 ERA from the bullpen and an offense firing on all cylinders while averaging nearly nine runs per game.
“The offense has been fantastic, keeping us in ballgames and extending leads. The bullpen is stabilizing, we’ve done a good job of matching guys up and protecting their workload usage,” Roberts said. “But for starters, with a little more than two months left in the season, that toll will catch up.”
In the 21 games since Kershaw has been sidelined, Dodgers starters are averaging 4.97 innings per start. This is counting Michael Grove’s bulk outing on July 8 against the Angels, in which he pitched six innings following an opener, as a start.
That’s a lot to ask of a bullpen, and the offense isn’t going to keep scoring at such a high pace, though on the season the Dodgers have scored more runs than any team in the National League.
They need their starting pitchers to last deeper into games more consistently, which is a lot to ask considering the current rotation has three rookies. The Dodgers are off this Thursday as well as next Monday, July 31, so they can get through this week. But fortifying the rotation is a must for the home stretch, especially since the Dodgers only have two off days during August.
“There’s going to be a 13-day stretch coming up when we’ve got to push guys longer and go deeper,” Roberts said.
But the question is which pitchers will be asked to pitch longer.
Bobby Miller is the most likely rookie to stick in the rotation, and the one with enough upside to potentially start in October depending on the situation. He’s already pitched 69 innings this year between the majors and Triple-A Oklahoma City, still a long way to go before reaching last year’s total of 112⅓ innings.
“I think he’s in a really good spot physically,” Roberts said.
Grove after his 4⅔ innings Monday against the Blue Jays is up to 66⅔ innings in 2023 compared to 105⅓ innings in 2022. Emmet Sheehan is up to 82⅔ innings between the majors and Double-A Tulsa this season, after pitching 88⅓ innings all of last year.
Roberts said neither have shown fatigue and they will monitor Sheehan going forward. But there’s also the matter of performance. Grove has a 6.19 ERA in the majors this season, and Sheehan is at 6.75.
Time to trade for starting pitching, clearly.