Is Brandon McCarthy Out In Dodgers Now Six-Man Rotation?

With a brilliant first start from new number two starter Julio Urias, with continued solid work from Alex Wood, and with the return of the $48 Million man Rich Hill set for Monday night, the Dodgers begin tonight’s three game series with the streaking Philadelphia Phillies with what appears to be a now six-man starting rotation, but one that is conspicuous by the absence of the guy who, statistically speaking, has just maybe been if not the team’s top starter at least incredibly close to Clayton Kershaw.

In five starts, Kershaw has compiled a 4-1 record with a 2.29 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. Brandon McCarthy has been at most just a speck behind, going 3-0 in four starts with an ERA of 2.25 and 1.08 WHIP. That makes Kershaw again a front runner for the Cy Young Award, and it apparently gives McCarthy a seat on the bench. Looking at the penciled-in

Dodgers’ rotation for the next dozen games, we see over the three with the Phillies, the next three with the Giants, three with the Padres and then three with the Pirates, a rotation of Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kershaw, Hill, Alex Wood, Urias, Meada, Ryu, Kershaw, Hill, Wood and Urias, but no McCarthy.

But, you have to think that that is subject to change, if not likely to change. Take Maeda for example. Kenta is in the worst streak of his career and coming off the worst start of his career. After allowing six earned in five innings in his last start against the Diamondbacks, his season now sits at 1-2 with an unheard of 8.05 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. Can Manager Dave Roberts keep him in the Dodgers’ rotation ahead of McCarthy with out anything less that a sterling performance tonight?

Tomorrow Ryu gets that ball with his starting slot almost as tenuous. Ryu’s season stats are almost as bad as Maeda’s (0-4, 4.64, 1.36) but he has shown much more in his comeback from two years of injuries. After a very successful by any and all account first start, Ryu was hit hard by both Colorado and by the Cubs, but those were Colorado and the Cubs, two of the very best offensive teams in the majors. His last start was a different story, with Ryu going six and allowing only a singe run. One really good indication of Ryu’s recovery has been his control, as he has allowed only five walks over 21-1/3 innings over his four games. Hopefully he will continue his comeback with a strong outing tomorrow, but even so if he is not outstanding his spot in the rotation would appear to be safe for now.

The final game against the Phillies has Kershaw set to go and nothing need be said about that. Hill then opens the Giants’ series on Monday, and that’s always a day for a pool to see who picks just how many innings or how many pitches Hill can throw before leaving for his next trip to the disabled list. His tally this season is one start and the DL, then one start and the DL. At the time of his May first start he will have spent 2/3 of the season on the DL and thrown all of eight innings and 129 pitches. My bet is that McCarthy needs to be ready to go on May 8th, the date now set for Hill’s next scheduled start after Monday.

Alex Wood gets the ball on Tuesday May 2, and if there is any starter on the Dodgers’ staff that could best adapt to a full-time bullpen role, it’s Wood. In fact, I really think, given his success the first time around a lineup and generally fall-off the second time around, not to mention his pretty decent lifetime success against right-handed batters (.261 lifetime BA

as compared to .240 against lefties) that he could find real success as an late-inning set-up guy and even as a closer. But, for now, overall he’s been right up there with Kershaw and McCarthy for overall effectiveness through the first month. After his great six-inning, one-hit shoutout performance this week against the Giants, his 2.29 ERA and 0.97 WHIP almost compel his remaining in the rotation.

Closing out the Giant’s series is Urias, set for his second start after yesterday’s masterful performance. Sure he’ll be on a short pitch count and he’ll spend the season that way, preserving his innings and his 20-year-old arm for the stretch drive and post season. But take him out of the rotation? No way, unless he struggles in more than a few games, and then it that case it should be back to Oklahoma City and not to a seat in the bullpen.

So, for now, the rotation is seemingly set, at lest for awhile, but is this really what Roberts envisioned?

Then, there is also the outfield situation, set on it’s ass by injuries to Joc Peterson, Franklin Gutierrez and Rob Segedin, not to mention the puzzling Andre Ethier situation. All this resulted in the Dodgers bringing up Cody Bellinger, the team’s top offensive prospect and eventually successor to Adrian Gonzalez at first base. Granted, Bellinger is doing a competent job defensively in left field, but at bat it seems clear at 21 he is not yet ready for major league duty. He’s started all three games since his arrival, but he’s been hitless in ten at bats, save for beating out an infield single in his first game. They may not have a choice for the next few days, but once Pederson is able to return, or even one of the other two, Bellinger needs to return to Triple-A, work on what he’s learned through a week or so of play in the majors, and be ready for a permanent recall around late June or early July.

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