Injuries to Walker Buehler and Dustin May turn Dodgers’ rotation into a question mark
The Dodgers finished August confident enough in their starting pitching depth to discard Ross Stripling on the final day of the month, right before the trade deadline, for two minor leaguers. It hasn’t even been two weeks and that depth is already facing a challenge as the club seeks to clinch its eighth straight division title over the regular season’s final stretch.
Hours after the Dodgers placed Walker Buehler on the injured list again because of a recurrence of a finger blister problem Thursday, Dustin May took a groundball off his left foot and exited his start after one inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Manager Dave Roberts said X-rays on May’s foot Thursday were inconclusive. He was scheduled to undergo further testing Friday.
Buehler began experiencing blister issues in his right index and middle fingers in his start against the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 21. He was placed on the injured list and returned Sept. 2 to hold the Diamondbacks scoreless for five innings. Six days later, he exited his start opposite Arizona after 2 2/3 innings Wednesday. His fastball hit 101 mph, but cameras caught him pulling skin off a blister on his index finger.
Walker Buehler is on the injured list for the second time this year because of a finger blister. It appeared to bother him Tuesday when he gave up five runs.
The Dodgers decided to play it safe, perhaps thinking they could shut down Buehler long enough to fix the problem but still give him time to make a start before the postseason.
“It’s manageable and I just think that all of us think the best thing to do right now is give him a break, get him on the IL; we’ll do some simulated games to keep his arm moving and it will be covered,” Roberts said. “In a regular game, you can’t have it covered. The main thing is, we keep it covered and get that finger to heal.”
Ideally for the Dodgers, Buehler returns without a hitch and starts Game 1 or 2 of the first-round, three-game series. After that, whether May is healthy or not, is unclear.
The Dodgers could elect to have Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urías or May — assuming he’s healthy — make a traditional start if there’s a Game 3 in the series. Or they could opt for a variation of a bullpen game, dividing the 27 outs depending on who’s available and the opponent.
As of Friday, the opponent would be the San Francisco Giants. In the clubs’ last meeting, a seven-inning doubleheader nightcap, the Dodgers went with a bullpen game led by Caleb Ferguson’s one-inning start. In all, seven relievers shut out San Francisco in the seven-inning win.
Major League Baseball is finalizing a postseason format in which teams would move into bubbles in Southern California and Texas after the first round.
It’s a question the Dodgers didn’t envision when training camp started at the beginning of July. Starting pitching was a clear strength. But that was before David Price opted out of playing this season, Alex Wood hurt his shoulder, and Stripling was traded.
Price is home in Arizona and isn’t going to rejoin the team until next season. Wood came off the injured list after five weeks to join the bullpen, though he’ll likely move to the rotation at least until Buehler returns. And Stripling is a member of the Blue Jays, for whom he’s allowed six runs in 7 2/3 innings.
The Dodgers clearly determined Stripling wasn’t someone they wanted to log significant innings in the postseason. However, they could’ve better protected themselves from the uncertainty by acquiring a frontline starter at the trade deadline. But Mike Clevenger, the top starter on the market, went to the surging San Diego Padres, and Lance Lynn, the next-best option, stayed put with the Texas Rangers.
So with 15 games remaining until the playoffs, the Dodgers are rolling with what they have. And what they have is the best record in the majors at 32-13 — with bubbling questions in their starting rotation.
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