Dodgers rookie Tony Gonsolin views start against Cardinals as an audition
Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May sat around in Oklahoma City last week, talking about an uncertain trade market.
As two of the top pitching prospects in the Dodgers farm system, Gonsolin and May were aware their names could be used as bait in the franchise’s pursuit of a top-end reliever. But they also knew that if they didn’t get dealt, they might be the next players called up to the big league roster.
Wednesday’s trade deadline came and went without any big moves. Two days later, the pair reconvened in the Dodger Stadium clubhouse, sitting in side-by-side stalls, the next Dodger rookies getting their chance to claim a postseason roster spot.
May, 21, turned in a promising debut Friday night. Gonsolin, 25, will get his own de facto audition Monday in a start against the St. Louis Cardinals, hoping to show improvement in his first Dodgers start since June.
“I feel like every opportunity is a chance to showcase yourself, root for yourself, to try and earn a postseason roster spot,” Gonsolin said. “But it’s not in my control. I just got to do the best I can every time I go out there.”
For manager Dave Roberts, the evaluation process will revolve around a simple barometer.
The Dodgers didn’t get a big-name reliever at the trade deadline but are confident they have enough dynamic arms to form a championship-level bullpen come October.
“Strike-throwing,” Roberts said. “Young pitchers, it’s not really a question of the stuff. They’re here because they have good stuff. I think the most important thing you see in a successful big league pitcher is the ability to throw a strike and to get ahead.”
Gonsolin did that in his first career start against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 26. He struck out three, didn’t issue a walk, and threw 51 of 77 pitches over the plate. But he didn’t catch many breaks –- the first three batters reached base on a bunt, infield single and error before Gonsolin surrendered a three-run home run –- and exited after allowing six runs (four earned) in four innings. Roberts gave him a list of items to work on upon his return to triple-A.
“I think just getting ahead and using his breaking ball a little bit more,” Roberts said. “The changeup is plus. The fastball command is really good. But to have something against a right-hander, the left-hander, to spin the baseball, just adds another thought.”
There probably won’t be an open rotation spot in October, but Gonsolin, who was a reliever for two seasons after being drafted in the ninth round in 2016, could build his case to make the postseason bullpen. On Tuesday, he pitched the final four innings of the team’s win against the Colorado Rockies to earn his first career save. He’ll have the chance to orchestrate an encore as the starter Monday.
“I’m just looking for the opportunity to play and get as much time up here as I can,” Gonsolin said. “Hopefully, when they feel it’s ready, then I’ll have a solidified role.”
Enrique Hernandez (left hand sprain) and Chris Taylor (fractured left forearm) should begin rehab assignments as soon as the end of this week. Roberts said Hernandez, who has been out since July 29, is “a couple days ahead” of Taylor, who went on the injured list July 15. David Freese, meanwhile, is at least several weeks away from returning from a left hamstring strain that has twice landed him on the injured list this year. “The goal for David is, obviously with the postseason, getting him healthy, keeping him healthy,” Roberts said.
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