The battle for the fifth spot in the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ starting rotation remains hazy after the start of the regular season.
The first four spots in the Dodgers’ rotation are all but set with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren filling the void. Who comes after that is a mystery.
The front-runner heading into Spring Training was Josh Beckett, who was looking to bounce back from an injury-ridden 2013. Beckett had a less than stellar spring, giving up five earned runs in eight innings pitched. Before the Dodgers left to Australia, Beckett was placed on the 15-day disabled list, leading to questions about if he had truly recovered from the surgery that ended his 2014 campaign.
The next two candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation are just as unreliable as Beckett. Paul Maholm was brought in by the Dodgers this offseason as extra insurance should Beckett not be able to compete come opening day. Maholm exited Spring Training with a 7.04 ERA and questions about his ability going forward.
Should Maholm fail, the next in line would be Chad Billingsley, who is as big as a question mark as anyone on the Dodgers. Billingsley underwent Tommy John surgery after two starts in the 2013 season and has yet to pitch to live hitters. At his peak, Billingsley was one of the best pitchers for the Dodgers, but his ability to bounce back from Tommy John surgey has yet to be seen. Some pitchers are able to be just as dominate, but others tend to fall off into obscurity.
If neither of these three men work in the fifth spot, the job would fall to top prospect Zack Lee. He is a great pitcher, but would ideally get one more year in the minors before ending up in the big leagues.
The Dodgers need answers for the fifth spot in their rotation, and fast. With the real start to the regular season just under a week away, the Dodgers can ill afford to start the season without a fifth man in their rotation.