A look back at the Dodgers need for starting pitching depth since 2015

As Chad mentioned in his Spring Training preview, the Dodgers may have a pretty clear five-man rotation planned for 2023 but who follows Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Noah Syndergaard is unclear.

With Syndergaard already set for the rotation, the Dodgers don’t actually have a veteran starter waiting to slide in from a swingman role. In 2022, that was Tyler Anderson taking over for Andrew Heaney in April. In 2021, it eventually became David Price for a stretch of July and August. Skipping 2020 given the different approach to the shortened season, it was Ross Stripling in 2019 and a combination of Stripling and Kenta Maeda in 2018.

Point being, the Dodgers have relied on five starters for at least 20 starts and 100 innings in only 2018 and 2017 since Andrew Friedman took over in 2015. That’s twice in the past seven seasons, again skipping over 2020. So here’s a closer look at the five set for the rotation this year and how the starts and innings have been distributed over the past eight years.

Player (IP)20222021201920182017

With four of the five reaching at least 125 innings in 2022, the Dodgers current five starters combined for their most innings over the past six seasons. Ideally Urias, Kershaw, Gonsolin and Syndergaard repeat last season’s totals, while May progresses like Gonsolin did last year.

May’s career high in innings as a professional came back in 2017 with Rancho Cucamonga and Great Lakes at 134, and he followed with 132 2/3 innings in 2018 for Rancho and Tulsa. May’s highest projection for 2023 is Streamer’s 121 innings. Urias’ 190 innings from Streamer leads the team’s projections, followed by Kershaw’s 172 from Streamer (a total he last surpassed in 2019) and Syndergaard’s 160 innings (which he’s surpassed twice in the past seven seasons) from ZiPS. Lastly, Gonsolin’s Streamer projection of 153 innings rounds out the rotation.

It’s pretty doubtful all five reach the high end of those projections, especially with May (Tommy John surgery in 2021), Gonsolin (shoulder inflammation in 2021), Kershaw (forearm and elbow in 2021, back problems in 2022 and 2020) and Syndergaard (Tommy John surgery in 2020) all having injuries over the past three seasons.

With Anderson’s 178 2/3 innings gone from last season and Walker Buehler’s 207 1/3 and 182 1/3 in 2021 and 2019 out for 2023, the Dodgers are playing without their innings leaders from three of the past four seasons (Ryu’s 182 2/3 innings led the team in 2019).



All the way back in 2015 the Dodgers had 16 different players start a game, with 12 of those regular starters. Six of the 12 started five or less games, including names like Mat Latos, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Baker, Joe Wieland, Brandon Beachy and Zach Lee.

Along with Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Brett Anderson and Mike Bolsinger starting at least 20 games each, Carlos Frias and Alex Wood split the No. 5 spot with 13 and 12 starts respectively. The other four all had just one start, with Juan Nicasio, Yimi Garcia, Ian Thomas and David Huff opening up games.



The Dodgers needed 15 different starters in 2016, with all of them recording more appearances to open games than in relief. Only Maeda reached 30 starts or 150 innings, while Scott Kazmir and Kershaw finished at 26/136 1/3 and 21/149 respectively. Urias, Stripling and Wood all broke double-digits in starts followed by a long list of nine pitchers between nine and one start.

Bud Norris was traded to the Dodgers at the end of June and started nine games before being designated for assignment. McCarthy came back from Tommy John in July for nine starts. Rich Hill was added at the deadline, but made just six starts as he didn’t debut with the team until late August. Bolsinger started six games between May and June before being sent to the Blue Jays in August. Brock Stewart, Jose De Leon, Anderson, Ryu and Nick Tepesch all started between five and one games.



One of the few normal seasons to cover, 2017 had five pitchers between 27 and 24 starts, with Kershaw, Wood, Hill, Maeda and Ryu all breaking 125 innings.

McCarthy’s 16 starts and 92 2/3 innings came around a dislocated shoulder and the yips, while Yu Darvish was added at the deadline for nine starts. Urias, Stewart and Stripling started five, four and two games respectively, with the latter two working out of the bullpen as well.



Only needing 11 starters in 2018, once again the Dodgers worked through the season with six pitchers with at least 20 starts and at least 125 innings. Wood led the team with 27 starts (and six relief appearances), followed by Kershaw’s 26, Hill at 24 and Buehler at 23. Stripling’s 21 starts came primarily in May, June, July and September with Maeda opening the year as a starter before moving to the bullpen for August and September.

Ryu also started 15 games, with a groin injury knocking him out of the rotation from early May to mid-August. Caleb Ferguson, Stewart, Scott Alexander and Daniel Hudson combined for seven starts, with Ferguson and Stewart accounting for four that were for at least 4 innings.



Leaning on the same six starters in 2019, Buehler, Ryu and Kershaw all reached at least 28 starts with Maeda and Stripling working in the rotation and bullpen. Maeda started 26 games with another 11 appearances out of the bullpen while Stripling split his 32 games almost equally between starting (15) and relief (17). The two split work in the rotation as they filled in for Hill, who started 13 games from late April to mid-June and again down the final stretch of September as he worked through a forearm strain.

Needing 11 starters in total, Urias, Gonsolin and May all started between eight and four games while also working out of the bullpen. Ferguson and Casey Sadler accounted for the other three starts as openers.



Using five pitchers as openers in 2020, Brusdar Graterol, Wood, Victor Gonzalez, Ferguson and Joe Kelly all started one or two games for the Dodgers.

The other 53 starts were split between 10 apiece for Kershaw, May and Urias, while Gonsolin and Buehler added eight starts and Stripling started seven before being traded away to Toronto. 



Using a franchise record 39 pitchers in 2021, the Dodgers had 19 different starters with nine of those serving as openers.

Seven relievers (Gonzalez, Graterol, Jimmy Nelson, Edwin Uceta, Garrett Cleavinger, Darien Nunez and Jake Reed) all started one game, with Justin Bruihl getting two and Corey Knebel at four. While not typical openers, the Dodgers also used Price for 11 starts with 28 relief appearances, and Mitch White in four starts compared to 17 games out of the bullpen. Josiah Gray earned one start before heading to Washington, and May started five games early in the year before missing the rest of the season with Tommy John surgery.

The other six regular starters were Buehler for 33 and Urias for 32 to lead the team, followed by Kershaw’s 22, Trevor Bauer’s 17, Gonsolin’s 13 and Max Scherzer’s 11 after he was added at the trade deadline. 



Using just two openers last year, Graterol and Ferguson each started one game each in September as the Dodgers led the NL West by nearly 20 games.

Rather than lean on relievers to fill holes in the rotation like they did in 2021, the Dodgers gave six starts to Michael Grove and seven to Ryan Pepiot as they made their major league debuts. May finished the season with six starts between his return from Tommy John and the end of his season due to a back injury. White also started 10 games over a two-month stretch from May to July before being traded to Toronto (the third time a pitcher here has been sent off to the Blue Jays, plus Ryu signing there and Stewart being claimed off waivers).

The other six pitchers to start were the original plan at the start of the season, with Urias leading the team with 31, Tyler Anderson at 28, Gonsolin at 24 and Kershaw with 22. Buehler’s season ended in mid-June with 12 starts, while Heaney’s 14 starts primarily came in August and September after starting just four games between April, May, June and July.


As Chad covered in his preview, Pepiot, Grove, Bobby Miller, Gavin Stone and Nick Nastrini all could see starts in 2023. Pepiot and Grove have a head start on the others having already debuted last year, with the Stripling/Price/White role available for someone to be thrown into. Everyone has already got their first, brief look at Grove as he started today’s Spring Training opener, throwing 11 pitches in the 1st inning against the Brewers with all of them going for strikes. A pair of ground outs and a four-pitch strikeout came around a 0-1 homer by Rowdy Tellez. The others will get their shots soon enough.

If you ignore the openers, especially in 2021, the Dodgers have mostly avoided burning a start on a declining vet or a career Triple-A type since 2016. Should that be the direction they go in (doubtful), Dylan Covey, Robbie Erlin and Jordan Yamamoto have started in the minors or over overseas in the past few years and are among the non-roster invitees.

Either way, as the numbers show, a sixth and seventh pitcher have started at least 10 games in 2022, 2021 and 2018, while the sixth has hit double digits and a seventh at least eight starts in 2019, 2017 and 2016. So really it’s not a matter of if they’ll be needed, but rather figuring out who will get those opportunities.

About Cody Bashore

Cody Bashore is a lifelong Dodger fan originally from Carpinteria, California (about 80 miles north of Dodger Stadium along the coast). He left California to attend Northern Arizona University in 2011, and has lived in Arizona full-time since he graduated in 2014 with a journalism degree.