Before the Sunday afternoon game against the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodger manager Dave Roberts announced the starting rotation for the regular season. Most of them have had a good spring training, and they will have a crucial role as the Dodgers try to win their sixth consecutive National League Western Division title, which is stronger than last season when it produced the two National League wild-card teams.
On the day the Dodgers reported to Camelback Ranch, Roberts named Clayton Kershaw to be the Opening Day starter against the San Francisco Giants. Last year marred with a back injury causing him to miss the entire month of August, Kershaw won his fifth NL ERA title and was the runner-up for the Cy Young award to the Washington Nationals Max Scherzer. This spring Kershaw hasn’t yet allowed an earned run with one more start to go before Opening Day. Sunday, a day before his 30th birthday, Kershaw dominated the Padres even with his legendary slider that hasn’t been up to his high standard until today’s performance. In his five innings, he had eight strikeouts while walking none. Barring an injury, Kershaw is poised for another huge season in his historic already Hall of Fame career.
Alex Wood had a breakout 2017 season when he earned his first All-Star selection. During this spring he has been working on a new delivery to lessen the stress on his left shoulder causing him to be on the disabled list twice. Although Wood has been pitching from the stretch constantly this spring, he has had a good spring. Whereas Kershaw overpowers the opposition, Wood relies on a terrific sinker to go with a curveball to induce ground balls. Having different styles of pitching will make it difficult on the opposition.
To break up the four left-handed starters in the Dodger rotation, Kenta Maeda will be third starter in the rotation. This spring Maeda has worked on his aggressiveness against the opposing hitters. This aggressiveness shown in the 2017 postseason as a dominant right-handed reliever should decrease Maeda’s pitch count. During his two-year Major-League career, Maeda has had a problem with endurance. The Dodgers hope his newfound aggressiveness will help him to last longer in each start lessening the stress on the bullpen.
At 38, Rich Hill was arguably the second-best pitcher in the Dodger starting rotation in 2017. In late August against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he narrowly missed a perfect game. This spring Hill sometimes has struggled. Thursday’s performance against the Kansas City Royals didn’t go well and displeased Hill, a highly competitive individual who wants to succeed in every outing even in the Cactus League.
Coming off his first healthy off-season since 2014, Hyun-Jin Ryu has prepared for this season normally. He must be more aggressive against the opposition than in the past, so he can last longer in each start. This spring Ryu has been slowed with the camp-wide stomach virus, but when he pitched, he has performed satisfactorily. With a full selection of pitches, Ryu doesn’t appear as an ordinary fifth starter. If he has good command of the strike zone and remains healthy for the entire season, Ryu can win fifteen games in 2018.