Rick Honeycutt ducked his head underneath the canopy of a golf cart, searching for protection from the sun. He had just spent two hours on the backfields at Camelback Ranch, surveying the surplus of arms the Dodgers have assembled for 2016, his 11th season as the team’s pitching coach.
Honeycutt stood watch behind a pack of mounds as veterans like Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson and Kenley Jansen threw bullpen sessions. New additions like Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda completed drills, and prospects like Julio Urias and Jose De Leon bounded from station to station. After most of the players and staff filtered into the clubhouse, Honeycutt hung back to monitor Hyun-Jin Ryu playing catch, another tentative step on the route back from shoulder surgery.
The assemblage of talent has yet to become a cohesive unit, but the organization hopes the group can blunt the departure of Zack Greinke, the team’s other ace and right-handed complement to Kershaw.
“It’s a very solid approach that we’re taking,” Honeycutt said. “You just cannot have enough pitching. It’s great to see our organization having youth that’s right on the verge of making that jump, and also bringing in some veteran presence. ... The abundance of quality that we have here is extremely pleasant to be around.”
Manager Dave Roberts has yet to select Kershaw as the opening-day starter, but that outcome is a fait accompli. Roberts also indicated he is fairly certain how he will stack the rest of the rotation, with Anderson, Kazmir and Maeda filing behind Kershaw in some order.
“We’ve got a very good idea of where we’re going to go, and how it’s going to shake out,” Roberts said. “But competition is always a good thing. With six weeks, there’s a lot of things that can happen.”
The most likely competition would occur for the fifth spot in the rotation if Ryu cannot answer the bell when the season starts. If Ryu is not ready the team could turn to Alex Wood. He joined the Dodgers as part of a complex three-team trade with Atlanta and Miami. Wood showed signs of stardom with the Braves, but never captured that form in Los Angeles. His earned-run average during the regular season was 4.35 and he suffered a two-inning pillaging by the New York Mets in his only postseason appearance.
In part, Honeycutt explained, Wood was dogged by a lingering ankle injury that occurred while still with Atlanta. He felt discomfort when he landed in his delivery. Wood declined to put the blame upon his body, but Honeycutt felt he was compromised by the condition.
“There were things that I would be asking him, and he would say ‘Well, I just can’t. I’m having trouble with that,’ ” Honeycutt said. “He’s a tough young man who wanted to take the ball. I don’t want to over-evaluate, but that’s a pretty important part of your delivery.”
A sizable portion of that production stemmed from Kershaw (2.13 ERA) and Greinke (1.66 ERA). They provided 455 1/3 of those 978 1/3 innings.
The rotation managed those numbers after Ryu injured his shoulder and Brandon McCarthy underwent elbow ligament-replacement surgery. With Kazmir and Maeda in the fold, reserves like Wood and Mike Bolsinger on the ready and prospects like Urias and De Leon on the rise, Honeycutt had reason to smile.
But will it be enough to make up for Greinke’s absence?
“Well,” Honeycutt said, chuckling as he spoke. “We’ll see.”
Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter @McCulloughTimes