Dodgers’ Minor League Rotation Has Nowhere To Go

The Dodgers have hit the midway point of the 2016 season seven games above .500 at 44-37, and begin the second half today basing their hopes of a post season appearance on a minor league rotation, now that Clayton Kershaw has joined the likes of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy on the disabled list. With Kershaw joining those other starters, the Dodgers now have passed the Angels as having the most talented disabled list rotation in baseball, sneaking past their neighbor’s injured group of Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, C.J. Wilson, Nick Tropeano, and Tyler Skaggs, who has

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now begun his return from 2014 Tommy John surgery and has pitched 14 minor league innings. Of course the Texas Rangers also have a say-so in just who tops that list of injured starters, with their group that includes Yu Darvish, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland, but they just do not have the numbers to compete with only three starters on the list.

The Dodgers' minor league rotation now includes Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, Brock Stewart and Bud Norris. Seriously?

Kazmir, one of only two veterans now in the rotation, has been consistently mediocre all season, posting a deceptively decent 6-3 won-lost record, despite a bad ERA of 4.67 and a worse WHIP of 1.32. By far the best starter remaining has been Maeda, the 28-year-old rookie who came to LA following a solid career in Japan. His 7-5 record has been complied with solid outings, contributing to his 2.82 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Then there is the 19-year-old phenom Urias, who would be back in triple-A were it not for Kershaw’s injury. He still might end up back there, as his projected season innings maximum is fast approaching and the team’s plans to use him in occasional relief down the stretch may or may not take a backseat to more immediate needs. While his major league numbers appear poor – 1-2, 4.09 ERA, 1.45 WHIP – he has been making consistent progress, demonstrating what figures to be a great future. Rounding out the rotation, as of now, are the “other” rookie Stewart, with one game, and a bad one, to his credit, and the newly acquired Norris, who at 31 has had a totally undistinguished eight years in the majors (59-75, 4.43, 1.40), including an awful first half in Atlanta, where he went 3-7 with a 4.22 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. But, they say he’s pitched better of late. He’ll have the chance to show it, as he

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starts today against Colorado in Kershaw's place. All I can say right now is that his 2016 season has been infinitely better than 2015 was for him, when he was 3-11 with an ERA close to 7.00.

In a season when so many highly-rated teams have struggled, including St. Louis, coming off their worst month of play in four years, the Pirates and the Mets with their own pitching problems, and now with the Rockies making a move into contention in the generally woeful NL West, the Dodgers' rotation, full of question marks as the
season began, has now crumbled into a total mess, depending now on hope for a relatively quick return by Kershaw while being led by a rookie with 16 games of major league experience in Maeda, a semi-successful reclamation project in Kazmir, and a 19-year-old about to hit the wall in Urias.

As the Giants, Cubs and Nationals own their respective divisions, the wild card spots are wide open, but for the Dodgers to retain their tenuous spot at the top of the list of contenders, or make those top two slots at all, names like Nick Tepesch, Ross Stripling, Mike Bolsinger, and now Bud Norris cannot be whom the team’s hopes are dependent upon.

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