Dustin May will start the season as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ fifth starter, pushing David Price, the former Cy Young Award winner who is owed $64 million over the next two decades, into an undefined bullpen role to start 2021.
Price is going to be among three traditional winners accessible from the Dodgers’ bullpen to start the regular season, linking Tony Gonsolin, who challenged for the National League Rookie of the Year Award last year, and veteran right-hander Jimmy Nelson, who returned to the Dodgers on a minor league contract. All three could provide bulk innings, and Price and Gonsolin in particular might also be relied on to pitch in high-leverage scenarios similar to the manner Julio Urias was deployed over the past two years.
Maintaining them all stretched out — a necessity given the innings jump which will put a premium on starting-pitching depth throughout the game — will probably be a difficult balancing act that may play out all year.
“There’s gonna have to be a bit of bullpen gymnastics, pitching gymnastics, so far as the year,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts stated. “This is an unknown — this year, coming from this past year. I believe that the ultimate goal the players, the business are aligned in is the fact that we want our men, our pitchers, to be sharp and as fresh as powerful for September, the postseason run. How you get there, how we arrive, may be debated. We’re gonna have to be eloquent.”
Price joined the Dodgers alongside Mookie Betts at February 2020, then announced his choice to opt out of the COVID-19-shortened season five months later. Following the Dodgers signed Trevor Bauer, including the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner into the group with the NL’s lowest ERA in 2020, Price achieved to Roberts to tell him he would be inclined to have any role, even if it meant acting as a long reliever.
Cost will fill that role, at least originally, which will help the Dodgers handle his innings after he has gone 19 months without even pitching in a game that counts. Clayton Kershaw, Bauer, Walker Buehler and Urias will toss in the season-opening four-game series from the Colorado Rockies that begins Thursday, respectively, and May will make his 2021 introduction against the Oakland Athletics on Monday.
May, 25, won the job after submitting a 3.10 ERA while striking out 90 batters and walking only 28 at 1042/3 innings from 2019 to 2020, a stretch which also comprises the playoffs. As was the 35-year-old Cost, a five-time All-Star and World Series winner who has accumulated 150 wins.
“It was simple, it was hard — just a lot of factors that I really just do not beg na get into,” Roberts said of the decision to choose May. “I just think we feel good with David, Jimmy and Tony from the pen getting abandoned, getting right out, taking down two, three, four innings. Potentially sooner or later, I expect those guys to finish a match if it makes sense.”