Dodgers To Start Off With 2 Solid Starters
What do Hideki Kuroda and Chad Billingsley have in common besides pitching for the Dodgers? If no moves are made prior to the team’s season opener Monday in San Diego, they will be the Dodgers’ only starting pitchers who have proved without a doubt they can pitch consistently well in the majors. With the departure of No. 1 starter Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux’s retirement, LA is still scrambling to fill its rotation with pitchers who can retire major league batters on a somewhat regular basis.
Kuroda hurled 183 innings in 31 starts as a rookie for the Dodgers last year after starring for many seasons in the Japanese major leagues. He allowed 181 hits, fanned 116, walked 42 and compiled an ERA of 3.73. It’s the ERA and walk totals that are most impressive. If the 6-1, 210-pound right hander had this season’s offense behind him a year ago, he would have easily won at least another five games. Kuroda pitched in bad luck last season – meaning he didn’t get much offensive support.
Billingsley very well could replace Lowe as the Dodger ace even though he is only in his fourth big league season. Last year, the big 245-pound right hander went 16-10 in 32 starts, striking out 201 in 202 2/3 innings and walking 80. He allowed only 188 hits in amassing a 3.14 ERA, seventh best in the National League.
After these two, there’s a big drop off. The top candidate for the third starting spot is veteran lefthander Randy Wolf, who went 9-6 with a 4.73 ERA for the Dodgers two years ago. Although he is 90-78 lifetime, Wolf’s lifetime ERA is 4.26. In his last 21 starts of 2008 after being traded from the Astros to the Padres, the 32-year-old went 6-10 with a 4.74 ERA. He is starting his 11 th major league season, having pitched eight seasons for the Phillies.
Starter No. 4 appears to be big Clayton Kershaw, as of now slated to be the only lefthander in the rotation. It is rumored the Dodgers will deal for or sign another southpaw before Monday. Kershaw (6-3, 220) started 21 games for LA as a rookie last season, going 5-5 with a 4.26 ERA. He struck out 100, walked 52 and yielded 109 hits in 107 innings.
The Dodgers have high hopes for towering James McDonald, the team’s leading candidate for the fifth and final spot in the rotation. A hard-throwing 24-year-old, McDonald (6-5, 195) pitched all of six innings last season, allowing no runs on five hits, striking out two and walking one. Six innings of superlative major league pitching during the last half of September is one thing. Pitching consistently well as a regular member of a starting rotation is something else again. Still, he has potential. Now, if he could only pitch left handed!
The Dodgers seem to have answered all their questions on offense, in the bullpen, and defensively. If their starting hurlers jell, another divisional championship and, perhaps, more await.
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