Due to “skillful” use of the disabled list and a deep group of starting pitchers that included seven who started nine or more times, the 2017 National League champ LA Dodgers effectively used a six-man starting rotation last season. No pitcher started more than 27 games, with the top numbers being 27, 25, 25, 25, 24, 16 and nine. with three others starting the remaining 11 games. By repeatedly having one pitcher or another start a game then go on the ten-day disabled list and miss one start, and then rejoin the rotation, manager Dave Roberts separated starts among the entire staff, utilizing on a regular basis more than the typical five pitchers that has been the rule for several decades, since the previously traditional four-man rotation was expanded to five.
While likely having less bodies primed to start games included in their 2018 staff, there
may be a likelihood that this season more of the 162 starts will be apportioned among a core of five starters than was the rule last year. But we will have to wait and see just how that plays out.
But in Anaheim, manager Mike Scioscia has been proactive in announcing that he will be utilizing a six-man rotation, and that while the lengthy injury history of his core of starters, as I’ve written about over and over, would seem to be reason enough to provide the benefit from more regular rest between starts for those healthy enough to actually take the mound, the stated reason for the switch is the presence of Shohei Ohtani.
While the international buz surrounding Ohtani has been based primarily on the fact that he has been a two-way player, both batter and pitcher, and that he has been so successful at both, Sciascia has downplayed Ohtani as a hitter, saying his hitting opportunities will have to play out as things progress into the season, However, there does not appear to be any wait and see as far as pitching is concerned, as Sciascia has announced his intent on a six-man rotation featuring Ohtani, and, heath issues aside, to also include this core of walking wounded: Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs and Matt Shoemaker, with number six to be taken from this group of more returning injured: J.C. Ramirez, Nick Tropeano and surprisingly included in that second tier group, Parker Bridewell, whose outstanding 2017 performance (10-3, 3.64 ERA in 20 starts), and health, should have guaranteed him no worse than the second spot in the rotation, following Richards.
Looking at this list of names, one does have to first rejoice at the fact the missing are such 2017 disasters as Ricky Nolasco and Jesse Chavez who between them started 54 games resulting in a 13-26 won-lost record and an ERA over 5.00, but also missing is the name Alex Meyer, who began to fulfill his great promise late last season, but who then suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder and who will miss all of 2018.
Assuming that Bridewell will be the sixth member of the rotation, the six names penciled in for 2018 made, due to injuries, a grand total of 61 major league starts in 2017, with Bridewell’s 20 by far the most, followed by Skaggs at 16, Shoemaker at 14, Richards at six, Heaney at five, and of course, zero for the rookie Ohtani.
One cannot speak of injuries to Angels’ pitchers without mentioning Ohtani, as he comes into his first major league season recovering from his own serious ankle injury that required surgery a scant five months ago, and amid rumors and divergent medical
opinions as to the status of a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. News of the injury did not become widespread until after his signing by the Angels, but the team has said that they were aware of the problem prior to the signing, and while such a strain so often leads to the infamous Tommy John surgery for ligament replacement, and a missed year-plus from active duty on the playing field, such medical experts as Angel’s general manager Billy Epler have said that Ohtani’s MRI findings are “consistent with players his age”. Of course, more and more “players his age” undergo Tommy John surgery, and many even younger than at 23, in fact more and more high school and college kids undergo the procedure. And more and more veteran pitchers undergo the procedure more than once, something a couple of decades ago was though not unheard of, still considered an insurmountable obstacle to overcome and to return to prior form. Just ask Darren Dreifort.