With 80% of his opening day starting rotation on the disabled list, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made a prediction Saturday afternoon: Kenta Maeda would be the first member of the quartet to pitch again this season.
This did not qualify as a bold proclamation. Clayton Kershaw is expected to miss more than a month with another lower back strain. Hyun-Jin Ryu is not projected to return from his torn groin muscle until after the All-Star break. And while Rich Hill threw his first bullpen session without bandages on his blistered finger on Saturday, he will need to make at least one minor league rehab outing before the team feels comfortable using him in a big league setting.
Maeda, meanwhile, was cleared to resume baseball activities Saturday after straining a muscle in his right hip this week. Maeda is unlikely to require a rehab outing. But Roberts declined to set a timetable for Maeda’s return.
The Dodgers have not announced their rotation for next week’s series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Ross Stripling is expected to start Tuesday. The team could use the duo of Brock Stewart and rookie Dennis Santana to cover the other two games. Roberts would not commit to that alignment, as he said the team would decide what to do after Saturday’s game.
Roberts expects the Dodgers to activate Hill next after Maeda is ready. To avoid the horror of Hill’s last start May 19, when his blister burst after two pitches, the Dodgers will require Hill to throw at least a five-inning outing in the minors. Hill may need an outing before that to build up his arm strength.
“We’ve all got to get assurance that he can sustain,” Roberts said.
Roberts suggested former top prospect Julio Urias, who has not pitched since undergoing shoulder surgery last summer, could be cleared to appear in games by the end of July. The team will try to build him up so he can contribute for the major league roster before the season ends.
The Dodgers claimed left-handed pitcher P.J. Conlon off waivers from the New York Mets. The team transferred Ryu to the 60-day disabled list. Conlon gave up seven runs in two appearances with the Mets in May and was designated for assignment last week.