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Dodgers Dugout: Who starts on opening day for the Dodgers?

Dodgers Dugout: Who starts on opening day for the Dodgers?
Walker Buehler (Morry Gash / Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and opening day is one week from today.

Spring training update

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Opening day is a week away, and there are some things to discuss before then, so let’s get to it.

Clayton Kershaw: To the surprise of no one, he will start the season on the 10-day disabled list because of inflammation in his pitching shoulder. He was scheduled to face hitters in a batting practice session on Wednesday, so by the time you read this, we should know how well he reacted to that. If everything goes according to schedule, he will make his first start for the Dodgers around April 9.

I still say that I will believe Kershaw pitches this season when I see it. I have no inside information as to that, and I certainly don’t want that to be true, but I just have a foreboding feeling.

With Kershaw out, who starts on opening day? The smart money is on Rich Hill.

Ross Stripling will replace Kershaw in the rotation. He should do fine, and he would be in the rotation already for most teams. I’m beginning to wonder if the Dodgers would like to have Alex Wood back though.

A lot of people are making a big deal over this ending his streak of consecutive opening day starts at eight. Really, it’s not a big deal. After all, Sandy Koufax started on opening day only once. Starting on opening day is a nice thing to point to, but is meaningless in the big picture.

The last time someone other than Kershaw started on opening day was 2010, when Vicente Padilla got the nod. That is also the last season that the Dodgers finished under .500.

Just for fun, here’s which pitchers had the most opening day starts for the Dodgers:

Kershaw, 8

Don Sutton, 7

Don Drysdale, 7

Fernando Valenzuela, 6

Ramon Martinez, 5

Carl Erskine, 4

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Van Lingle Mungo, 4

Nap Rucker, 4

Orel Hershiser, 4

Walker Buehler: Despite not pitching a lot this spring, he is scheduled to start the season in the Dodgers rotation. He will not be the opening-day starter. Buehler pitched 2 2/3 innings in his first Cactus League game earlier this week. He will pitch Monday against the Angels in the exhibition Freeway Series.

Opening day starter: Nothing has officially been announced, but the most logical candidate is Rich Hill. He has pitched the most this spring and has pitched well.

Corey Seager: For those (including me) wondering if Seager would be ready for opening day, Dave Roberts says wonder no more. “I think just talking with the training staff and talking with Corey himself and just where he’s at, the progression. I think that we’ve been conservative, understandably, and I just don’t see any reason why he won’t be ready for opening day.”

Here are Baseball Prospectus’ projected NL West standings:

Dodgers, 94-68

Colorado, 85-77

Arizona, 81-81

San Diego, 79-83

San Francisco, 73-89

I would say that is right as far as the order goes. I think San Diego may sneak ahead of Arizona and that San Francisco might get an emotional lift for Bruce Bochy’s last season and do a little better. But to me, the Dodgers are the clear favorite to win the division. I do not favor them to win the World Series, but let’s worry about that more into the season.

Taking the prediction even further, if they are correct, that means New York will play Washington in the wild-card game, with the winner taking on the Dodgers. The other division series would be Milwaukee vs. Philadelphia. Wouldn’t a Dodgers-Bryce Harper-led Phillies NLCS be fun?

For the AL, Tampa Bay will play Boston in the wild-card game, with the winner facing Houston. New York will face Cleveland in the other division series.

Patterns

Here’s something I can’t get out of my mind, even though it’s all superstition and has no basis in reality. In 1977 and 1978, the Dodgers won the NL West and lost in the World Series. Exactly 40 years later, in 2017 and 2018, the Dodgers won the NL West and lost in the World Series. Does that mean they will have a disappointing 2019? After all, in 1979, they finished under .500. Yeah, I know. Crazy thinking. But if the Dodgers do have a disappointing season, then pencil in a World Series title in 2021.

Opening day roster

So what will the roster look like to start the season? Let’s guess.

Catchers

Austin Barnes

Russell Martin

Infielders

David Freese

Kiké Hernandez

Max Muncy

Corey Seager

Chris Taylor

Justin Turner

Outfielders

Cody Bellinger

Joc Pederson

A.J. Pollock

Alex Verdugo

Pitchers

Scott Alexander

Pedro Baez

Walker Buehler

Caleb Ferguson

Dylan Floro

Yimi Garcia

Rich Hill

Kenley Jansen

Joe Kelly

Kenta Maeda

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Ross Stripling

Julio Urias

The last couple of spots in the bullpen are the hardest to peg. Dylan Floro? Kevin Quackenbush? Stetson Allie? Is Ferguson’s poor spring enough to get him sent down?

Will the Dodgers keep 13 pitchers for opening day? If they do, that means either Brad Miller or Verdugo go down. If they send Miller down, he can opt out and leave for another team. So, would that make them send Verdugo down instead? Miller is having a great spring, but Verdugo has nothing left to prove in the minors. It’s time to see what he can do in the majors.

Those final roster cuts will be very interesting, as there are still some question marks. But the roster above gives you a general idea of what the team will look like when they take the field next Thursday.

Cut to the Chase

Chase Utley will be back with the Dodgers next season…… as a TV analyst on Spectrum SportsNet. He will rotate with Jerry Hairston Jr. and Nomar Garciaparra as a studio analyst before and after Dodgers games.

Ask Ross Porter

Ross Porter will once again answer reader questions this season. All you have to do is email me your question at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. I will forward the email on to Ross, and he will answer two or three each week. Ross has done this every year for the newsletter and has done it for free, so my thanks go out to him.

TV schedule

KTLA will televise 10 Dodger games during the season. They are:

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Tuesday, April 2, vs. San Francisco, 7 p.m.

Friday, April 12, vs. Milwaukee, 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 18, at Milwaukee, 5 p.m.

Wednesday, April 24, at Chicago Cubs, 5 p.m.

Saturday, April 27, vs. Pittsburgh, 6 p.m.

Saturday, May 11, vs. Washington, 6 p.m.

Monday, May 27, vs. New York Mets, 5 p.m.

Thursday, May 30, vs. New York Mets, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 1, vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

Saturday, June 15, vs. Chicago Cubs, 6 p.m.

And finally

Listen to the Dodgers win the 1955 World Series via a radio broadcast. Click here to listen.

Have a comment or something you'd like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston.

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