The 10-man pitching staff used to be normal. Then again, so did complete games.
As a good start is redefined as six innings, and as teams expand bullpens to prioritize late-game matchups, the bench must shrink accordingly. As the Dodgers finalized their opening day roster on Thursday, they assembled a bench that maximizes versatility.
The days of a backup third baseman or a backup center fielder are over, at least in Los Angeles. Even the Dodgers’ backup catcher can play other positions.
“It’s nice for me to look at the roster and not be pigeonholed with a certain player,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said.
The Dodgers will open the season with a 12-man pitching staff, a platoon in left field and a four-man bench that includes Austin Barnes (catcher, second base, third base, center field), Enrique Hernandez (second base, shortstop, left field, center field) and Scott Van Slyke (first base, left field, center field, right field).
Chase Utley is primarily a second baseman, but Roberts said starting second baseman Logan Forsythe also would be used at first base and third base.
The Dodgers sent catcher Bobby Wilson, infielder Chris Taylor and outfielder Trayce Thompson to triple-A Oklahoma City.
Roberts said the Dodgers want Thompson to play every day to regain his form. Thompson did not play after July 10 last season because of a back injury. Roberts also said Hernandez was retained over Chris Taylor as the backup shortstop “solely based” on Hernandez’s ability to play center field.
The Dodgers’ opening day roster, barring injury between now and Monday’s opener:
Starting pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Relief pitchers: Kenley Jansen, Sergio Romo, Grant Dayton, Luis Avilan, Chris Hatcher, Alex Wood, Ross Stripling.
Catchers: Yasmani Grandal, Barnes.
Infielders: Forsythe, Utley, Hernandez, Adrian Gonzalez, Corey Seager, Justin Turner.
Outfielders: Van Slyke, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, Franklin Gutierrez.
Julio Urias, the Dodgers’ 20-year-old pitching prodigy, showed up at Angel Stadium on Thursday sporting a mohawk, with a strip of hair across the top of the head and the sides shaven.
“It’s a new season,” Urias said through an interpreter. “It’s a new haircut.”
The Dodgers acknowledge that Urias is one of their five best starters, but they want to conserve his innings so he can be available in September and October. He was limited to eight innings in the Cactus League.
Urias said he expected to return to the Dodgers’ Arizona spring home after the Freeway Series and await his next assignment, either in extended spring training or in the minor leagues. He said he did not have a target date by which he hoped to return to Los Angeles.
“Whatever their plan is, that’s when I’ll be ready,” he said. “My plan is to be here. I have to wait for their decision.”
Seager, who has been limited to five Cactus League at-bats because of what Roberts has called an “oblique-ish” injury, is expected to play in the Dodgers’ exhibition finale Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
Seager, the reigning National League rookie of the year, has not played in an exhibition game since March 3.
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