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Ryan Pepiot makes Dodgers season debut after oblique/intercostal injury

MLB: Game One-Miami Marlins at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers on Saturday morning called up Ryan Pepiot from Triple-A Oklahoma City to be the 27th player for their split doubleheader against the Marlins. He entered in the second inning of the first game, following opener Caleb Ferguson, and pitched five strong innings, allowing only a run.

“I thought his slider was his best pitch today. It’s always been a distant third for him, but today he was throwing a lot on the outside corner. It was hard, a pretty good true slider today,” said catcher Austin Barnes. “And obviously he’s got that good fastball that explodes.”

Pepiot could end up with a longer run in the rotation now that Tony Gonsolin is out with a right elbow/forearm injury that could end his season. As the 27th man on Saturday, Pepiot can be sent back to the minors without getting re-optioned, so that the Dodgers don’t have to wait 15 days to call him back up.

Dave Roberts mentioned Pepiot, Gavin Stone, and Ryan Yarbrough in the mix to fill in for Gonsolin, though Yarbrough could still be used in bulk relief, as he has done in his first three outings with the Dodgers.

“Ryan Yarbrough, in acquiring him, protected us against the downside of something like this,” Roberts said. “But we’ve seen his ability to pitch a couple times a week, shorten the game, save the pen. That’s proved valuable.”

But for Saturday with the Dodgers playing two games, Pepiot’s role was clear in the short term.

“I’ll do what I can to help the team, and pick up some innings today,” he said.

After the outing, Roberts had more praise for Pepiot, who could be sent back to the minors after Saturday but still be recalled next weekend to start when needed.

“We have the extra player for the doubleheader, the off days coming, and then 13 [days] in a row. How we navigate that as a pitching staff is still up for debate,” Roberts said. “Certainly, the way he threw the baseball speaks to him getting another opportunity or opportunities. But I just don’t know how that’s going to look.”

Last Sunday, Pepiot took a perfect game into the seventh inning in Tacoma, and ended his night with 11 strikeouts in 6⅔ scoreless innings on 90 pitches, his longest outing of the season.

After winning the fifth starter spot replacing an injured Gonsolin in spring training, Pepiot landed on the injured list with a strained left oblique on opening day, Pepiot began a rehab assignment with Oklahoma City that lasted four starts before he was activated off the injured list and optioned, remaining in Triple-A. In all, Pepiot has a 3.97 ERA with 26 strikeouts and five walks in 22⅔ innings in his six starts for OKC this season.

“It was basically like having a second spring training, getting started later on,” Pepiot said. “It was tough, but just tried to take it day by day, get as close to coming back each day that went by.”

Originally, Pepiot thought the oblique injury wouldn’t keep him out much longer than a few weeks. But he didn’t pitch in a game for three and a half months because the injury spread to his intercostal muscle.

“It just kept lingering on. I had a couple of MRIs and a CT scan that showed the intercostal, and was up in the ribs. That’s why it took so long,” said Pepiot. “I couldn’t do a whole lot. I tried to find the balance of taking time off, but not taking too much time off from throwing.”

Pepiot is the 38th different Dodgers pitcher this season, one shy of the club record set in 2021. Thirty-eight pitchers is tied with the Rays this year for most in the majors.

The MLB record for most pitchers used in a season is 42, shared by four times in the previous four years — 2019 Mariners, 2021 Orioles, 2021 Mets, and 2022 Cubs.