David Price to the bullpen? What it means for Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Jimmy Nelson

David Price Photo by: Stacie Wheeler

The Dodgers have a ton of pitching depth — specifically, starting pitching depth. That’s not a surprise. What is a bit of a surprise is the fact David Price is likely to begin the season in the bullpen.

Price, 35, is coming off a 2020 in which he opted out and, as a result, didn’t pitch for the Dodgers. He appeared in a few Spring Training games, but that was it. Price has started 311 of his 321 career regular-season games.

Aside from being the No. 1 overall MLB Draft pick in 2007, Price gained notoriety for pitching out of the Rays’ bullpen during their 2008 World Series run, which included a Game 7 save in the ALCS against his future-former team — the Red Sox. He last pitched in relief in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series against his future team — the Dodgers — before going seven strong innings in the Game 5 clincher.

Price can pitch out of the bullpen, just as any pitcher, technically, can. He has experience and coming of a season in which he didn’t pitch, it may not be the worst thing for him to come along slowly so he can rebuild his stamina in hopes of claiming a rotation spot later in the season.

This decision directly benefits Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin. Both have pitched well this spring:

PlayerERAIPBBK
May2.6313 2/3617
Gonsolin2.6110 1/3012

Both profile best as starting pitchers, but with the other four spots filled by Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Trevor Bauer and Julio Urias, there’s only room for one of them in the rotation (assuming the Dodgers don’t implement a 6-man rotation, which they probably won’t).

May has seen an increase in strikeout rate this spring thanks to the improvement of his curveball and his throwing more 4-seam fastballs up in the strike zone.

And he still has his ridiculous 100 MPH sinker and low-90s cutter to go with those two offerings.

Gonsolin hasn’t really changed much, because he hasn’t needed to. He still has a legitimate 4-pitch mix and a chance for plus-command/control.

As a starter, May probably has the higher ceiling, while Gonsolin has the higher floor. Either way, both are quality pitchers and should get their chance to contribute to the team this season — just as they did last season.

My guess is May gets the first shot as the No. 5 starter, while Gonsolin — as well as Price and Jimmy Nelson — form a nice multi-inning-reliever trio. If May struggles, Gonsolin is probably next up, at least until Price has rebuilt his stamina. There’s also a non-zero chance Nelson reverts to his 2017 form that saw him contending for the National League Cy Young award until he got hurt (he finished 9th).

Pitchers will get hurt. Pitchers will struggle. When that happens, the Dodgers have a plethora of options to plug and play. And come October, it’s hard to see an overall pitching staff better than this one. Of course, it’s still March and a lot can change, but this is going to be fun to watch.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.