The Dodgers and the Angels enter the three-game Freeway Series beginning Thursday in different states of readiness in terms of their opening-day rosters.
The Dodgers telegraphed many of their maneuvers with roster moves Tuesday and Wednesday. In February, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts announced Clayton Kershaw would make his seventh consecutive start on opening day. Over in Tempe, Ariz., more than a month later, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia is yet to tip his hand on the opening-day starter, the rotation or the closer.
For the Dodgers, the lone roster dilemma involves the last two spots on the bench. The team will keep tabs on the health of utility player Enrique Hernandez, who was sore after getting hit on a wrist by a pitch Tuesday. If Hernandez starts the season on the disabled list, Chris Taylor would likely replace him.
The other opening on the Dodgers bench is being contested between Scott Van Slyke and Trayce Thompson. Van Slyke looks like the favorite, given his experience plus his ability to play first base and the outfield.
Other than that, the Dodgers enter the series with little intrigue. That poses a contrast to their neighbors in Anaheim.
The Angels opened spring training with three closer candidates. The contender who pitched the best last season, Cam Bedrosian, threw eight scoreless innings in the Cactus League. Huston Street, was injured in his first game and is weeks away from returning and Andrew Bailey struggled at the start and was relegated to a minor league appearance to relocate his command.
Scioscia said he expects to have a set closer he can call on Monday if the Angels take a lead into the ninth inning in Oakland. But he insists has not yet decided who that will be.
“I think there are some things that we have to look at,” he said Wednesday.
The Angels aim to determine their closer this weekend. Now in his 18th season, Scioscia has generally hewed to roles for relievers, utilizing top pitchers in preset situations when leading. He said he is willing to mix and match relievers throughout the year, if their performance demands it.
“It’s infinitely easier if you have guys that can create roles, and you have balance down there with a lefty that you can kinda manage some situations,” Scioscia said. “Then you can match up with roles, which helps. But you never know which way your talent’s going to evolve, which way it’s going to go. It might go where it’s maybe a matchup bullpen the whole year. Maybe there’s one guy that gets in the back end.”
Street started the season as the closer. When he succumbed to an injury, Scioscia turned to Bedrosian. When Bedrosian went on the disabled list, Scioscia turned to Fernando Salas. When the Angels traded Salas, Scioscia turned to Bailey for six of seven September save chances.
“Our bullpen will evolve based on its talent,” Scioscia said. “If it ends up being one guy, it’s one guy. If it ends up being more than one guy, it’s more than one guy.”
Thursday’s and Friday’s games are in Anaheim; Saturday’s is at Dodger Stadium. Both teams are off Sunday and play their regular-season openers Monday. The Dodgers will be at home against the San Diego Padres. The Angels will be at Oakland.