Michael Grove overcomes illness as Dodgers’ young pitching experiment begins

Dodgers pitcher Michael Grove delivers during the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium.
Dodgers right-hander Michael Grove, who overcame an illness to start, gave up three runs in four-plus innings against the Colorado Rockies on Monday night. The Dodgers won 13-4.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Dave Roberts doesn’t like using the term “audition.”

But every time the Dodgers call up one of their young starting pitchers to the major leagues this season, giving the manager and the rest of the organization a chance to see one of their homegrown talents up close, Roberts acknowledged it’s an important opportunity.

To build a “track record of dependency,” as Roberts described it.

To prove their readiness at the big league level, where opportunities should abound this year with the Dodgers’ pitching staff.


And, most of all, to continue raising their stock in a crowded and competitive organizational pipeline, one rich with highly touted hurlers the Dodgers might need to lean on this season.

The team began that process Monday night when right-hander Michael Grove became the first young pitcher from the highly ranked farm system to take a big league mound this season.

The Dodgers used a seven-run fifth inning to begin their two-game series against Colorado with a 13-4 win Monday night at blustery Dodger Stadium.

April 3, 2023

And after feeling “under the weather” for several days leading into his start, the 2018 second-round pick, who debuted with seven outings in the big leagues last season, offered a conflicting first impression in the Dodgers’ 13-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium.

Early on, Grove looked dominant, locating his fastball while effectively mixing his breaking pitches to strike out four and blank the Rockies over the first four innings.

Though Grove failed to record an out in the fifth — he issued a pair of walks and gave up a double to Elias Díaz, leading to three earned runs in his four-plus-inning outing — Roberts still came away from the right-hander’s performance impressed.

“It was kind of touch and go if he was gonna make the start,” Roberts said, noting that Grove had gone home early the previous couple of days while battling cold-like symptoms. “But he gave us everything he had. The stuff was good. … It was a big lift.”


Granted, Grove wasn’t originally supposed to be counted on this soon into the season.

With Tony Gonsolin out for most of April because of a sprained left ankle, fellow rookie right-hander Ryan Pepiot had initially won the Dodgers’ open rotation spot with a strong spring camp, relegating Grove to triple-A Oklahoma City after he completed his spring work in Arizona last week.

That’s where Grove was — throwing a bullpen session in preparation for an opening day triple-A start — when he got the news last Wednesday that Pepiot had suffered an oblique strain, forcing an early change of plans that will result in Grove getting at least three or four weeks in the Dodgers’ starting rotation.

“I was joking — you don’t normally see the call-up before the season starts,” Grove, 26, said. “But I was just trying to stay ready for whenever my number was called.”

Dodgers pitcher Michael Grove throws during the first inning of a spring training game against the Chicago White Sox.
Dodgers pitcher Michael Grove throws during a spring training game against the Chicago White Sox in Glendale, Ariz.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

That’s the same approach the club’s other top pitching prospects — Pepiot, Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller — all carried into this season as well.

Over the last couple of years, that quartet has emerged as the cream of the Dodgers’ young pitching crop. And whenever one of the team’s primary five rotation members goes down this season, it will be one of those four young pitchers likely getting the nod as a big league replacement.


“I think we’re all really excited for each other,” Grove said. “It’s awesome whenever one of us gets a chance. So whether it’s Stoner or Bobby later this year, probably, or me and Pep, I think we all just want to do what we can to help this team, and hopefully be here.”

For all that camaraderie, though, there is also inevitable competition.

And fair or not, it will put the players’ development under a microscope this season as they effectively jockey for position in the Dodgers’ short- and long-term plans.

“With a young player, you’re trying to gain information,” Roberts said when asked what the team is looking for out of its young pitchers this season. “You want to feel that he’s dependable enough to realize his pitch count, get through innings, manage stress and keep us in a ballgame, pass it to the next.”

In splitting their opening four-game series against the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers showed some good and bad signs.

April 3, 2023

Grove will get at least a few more chances before Gonsolin comes back, but there’s no guarantee it will be his name called the next time an opening arises in the rotation.

Pepiot could start throwing again as soon as next week, with his oblique injury not believed to be serious.

Stone was the opening day starter for Oklahoma City after his own impressive spring, but he struggled in a 2 2/3-inning, six-run season debut in triple A.


Miller, meanwhile, is still in Arizona, building up stamina in extended spring training after he was limited by shoulder soreness at the start of camp. (He threw an inning Saturday and will continue building up from there.)

It’s possible any, and maybe even all, of them will factor into the Dodgers’ plans at some point this season.

It could help determine the direction of the team’s season. And on Monday night, the Dodgers got a first chance to begin taking stock, marking the unofficial start of a prospect pitching battle that could last the entire year.