“Wait, who?” I’m sure that’s what most Dodger fans are asking themselves. But Nick Tepesch isn’t the most surprising (nor is he the worst) option to start a game for the Dodgers in the last two years. He will do so on Friday night in Pittsburgh.
Tepesch, 27, was a 14th-round draft pick by the Rangers in 2010. He signed for $400,000 before the signing deadline and looked like he might be a really good get for the Rangers. He threw 138 1/3 innings in his first professional season (2011), followed by 162 innings in 2012 between High-A and Double-A. He was never a huge strikeout guy (19.3 K% in his first two season), but he did good job of not walking guys (6.1 BB%) and a decent job of keeping the ball in the yard (0.9 HR/9). He’s definitely a pitch-to-contact pitcher type of pitcher. With a strong Dodger defense behind him, that isn’t the worst thing.
He made his MLB debut with the Rangers in 2013 and started 17 games. He didn’t fare too well: 4.84 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 13.5 HR/FB and a 8.7 SwStr%. He had a decent 12.0 K-BB%, but he was roughed up a bit. He also missed 49 days with the dreaded elbow inflammation. The next season went even worse for him: 4.36 ERA, 5.01 FIP, 10.2 HR/FB%, 5.7 SwStr%. His K-BB% dropped all the way to 2.2 percent due to a decrease in strikeouts (10.4 percent) and an increase in walks (8.2 percent). That’s a bad combination, especially in Texas. Oh, and he also had shoulder soreness in April 2015 and didn’t pitch at all. He came back this season and was decent in Triple-A for them, but it’s still not surprising that he was released by the Rangers on June 4. The Dodgers snatched him up two days later and sent him to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
In his first three outings for OKC, he has been pretty good: 18 IP, 17 H, 5/4 R/ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 17 K. He had an 8-inning outing last time out on June 17. Tepesch isn’t the ideal candidate to start on Friday, but the Dodgers kind of backed themselves into a corner.
Mike Bolsinger was optioned to Triple-A after his last start, meaning he could not come back up to start before 10 days had passed unless the Dodgers placed someone on the disabled list. The same situation applied to Carlos Frias, who was optioned back to OKC when Yasiel Puig was activated. Jose De Leon is not yet stretched out enough to start. And really, the Dodgers shouldn’t be bringing him up for a spot start anyway. Brock Stewart is scheduled to start Friday for OKC, but he just got to Triple-A and isn’t ready for the majors yet. Jharel Cotton could have been an option, but he pitched on Monday. Frankie Montas would have certainly gotten the call if he weren’t on the minor-league DL. Ross Stripling is still in Arizona nursing an “injury.” And despite the off day today, the Dodgers wanted to give the rotation an extra day of rest. Honestly, that’s probably the smart move.
A quick look at Brooks Baseball reveals Tepesch has a 4-pitch mix. His 4-seam fastball that he sinks (and throws the 4-seamer and sinker about the same amount), a slider, curveball and changeup. His fastball sits in the 90-92 MPH range. His slider is his go-to off-speed pitch. It sits in the 85-86 MPH range and is his best swing-and-miss pitch. His curveball is a high-70s pitch, while his mid-80s changeup is more of a “show me” pitch.
This situation could have been handled a lot better, but this also isn’t a season-ending move, either. The play should have been Cotton or Frias, but Tepesch isn’t exactly a youngster making his MLB debut. He has MLB experience and has been solid in the minors in 2016. It isn’t ideal, but it isn’t like giving Scott Baker or David Huff a start.
Tepesch will need to be added to the 40-man roster. The Dodgers could move Ian Thomas to the 60-day disabled list (he hasn’t pitched since May 12) or designate Layne Somsen, whom they just claimed off waivers yesterday, for assignment. There’s an outside chance of Alex Wood going to the 60-day DL, but I wouldn’t bet on that.
Here’s hoping the Dodgers bring the hitting sticks on Friday night. They’re probably going to need them if they wish for their 6-game winning streak to remain in tact.