Manager Dave Roberts unveiled Wednesday the composition of the Dodgers pitching staff, but the team left Camelback Ranch still debating the final spots on the bench.
Roberts said that Brandon McCarthy will join the rotation, with Alex Wood shifting into the bullpen. The other starters are Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
However, the bench remains unfinished, with the situation complicated by Enrique Hernandez’s injured wrist. Hernandez was hit by a pitch Tuesday and cleared by an X-ray. He was still dealing with soreness Wednesday, which could open a door for Chris Taylor to make the club as a utility infielder.
“We’ve still got to see how he feels tomorrow,” Roberts said. “If there’s days that go by where he can’t swing a bat, then that could change things as well.”
Infielder Chase Utley, outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and catcher Austin Barnes appear to have secured spots on the bench, although veteran catcher Bobby Wilson has not been reassigned to the minors. The contestants for the last two openings are Hernandez, Taylor, Scott Van Slyke and Trayce Thompson.
All four have minor league options, so the Dodgers are not handcuffed in terms of flexibility. Thompson can play all three outfield positions, but after sitting out the second half of 2016 because of a fractured back, he may benefit from daily at-bats at triple-A Oklahoma City.
Heading into Tuesday, Hernandez appeared more likely than Taylor to make the club as a utility man. Hernandez can play the outfield and Taylor has looked raw during experiments there this spring.
“On the position-player side, I was hoping we could get [some clarity] today, but I think that will have to wait until tomorrow,” Roberts said.
The Dodgers settled some business this week. They optioned relievers Josh Fields and Adam Liberatore to the minors. Each played a crucial role with the club in 2016 and are expected to contribute in 2017. But the team wanted to emphasize maintaining organizational depth and stockpiling relievers who can provide length for the first two weeks of the season.
To start the season, the bullpen will be comprised of Kenley Jansen, Sergio Romo, Grant Dayton, Luis Avilan, Chris Hatcher, Ross Stripling and Wood.
Hatcher lost his job as the setup man at the end of April. He injured an oblique during the summer and did not pitch after July 19. He finished with a 5.53 earned-run average. His ERA this spring is 5.91.
Hatcher made the club because he no longer has minor league options. The team wanted to retain Hatcher, Fields and Brandon Morrow. Morrow accepted an assignment to the minors Tuesday and can opt out of his contract June 1. The Dodgers could have designated Hatcher for assignment to see whether he would clear waivers, but decided to keep him on the roster instead.
“Hatch is going to get an opportunity,” Roberts said. “The pitch mix is still elite. But he’s got to be effective and productive. And he knows that.”
Roberts indicated the team planned to use McCarthy as the fourth starter and Ryu as the fifth. That means that after making only one appearance in the last two seasons, Ryu is slated to pitch at Coors Field and Wrigley Field on the team’s first trip. Roberts said the opponents did not factor into the arrangement of the staff.
“I don’t think we need to protect him, in the sense of where he pitches or who he pitches against,” Roberts said. “But I think there will be a mindfulness, as far as his usage and how far we extend him.”