Amid a horrid stretch of injuries to their starting rotation, the Los Angeles Dodgers have thus far filled the holes with internal options. That trend continues today, at least in the short-term, as the Dodgers are calling up pitching prospect Dennis Santana from Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he made two starts after being promoted from Double-A Tulsa.
Santana, the Dodgers’ ninth-best prospect according to MLB.com, joins the big league team in the wake of the latest injury, this time to the normally durable Kenta Maeda, who left Tuesday night’s game in the second inning with a right hip strain. The team is already without the services of Clayton Kershaw (bicep tendinitis), Hyun-Jin Ryu (torn groin), and Rich Hill (blister), leaving Alex Wood as the only healthy starter from the Opening Day rotation.
Santana is a power pitcher whose weakness has always been control. Beginning with Rookie League in 2015, Santana’s strikeouts per nine innings each season have been 9.9, 10.0, 9.8, and 11.8 (this season). Until this year, those huge strikeout numbers were accompanied by high but gradually improving walk numbers: 7.2, 4.5, and 3.4 BB/9, respectively. This season, between Tulsa and OKC, Santana has a respectable 2.9 BB/9 mark. With 65 strikeouts and 16 walks in 49.2 innings, along with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.047 WHIP, Santana has earned the chance to fill a hole in the Dodgers rotation.
While the Dodgers have not yet announced the corresponding move for Santana’s promotion, a trip to the disabled list for Maeda seems likely. It also seems likely that there will be multiple moves made today, as an already-taxed bullpen was forced to throw 7.1 innings after Maeda’s early departure. The only relievers on the 40-man roster who are eligible to be recalled right now are left-hander Adam Liberatore and right-hander Ariel Hernandez. Liberatore has been back and forth this season between Los Angeles and OKC, and Hernandez has pitched well for Tulsa this season but struggled during a brief promotion to Triple-A.
While Liberatore and Hernandez are the two immediately eligible relievers, more doors open if Maeda hits the disabled list. That would open the door for one of Pat Venditte, JT Chargois, or Edward Paredes, all of whom were optioned back to the minors less than 10 days ago. The rules require an optioned player to stay in the minors for at least 10 days, but an exception is made in the case of injury.
The Dodgers have not yet announced the Santana promotion, and it’s possible that it won’t be official for a couple days. With Ross Stripling and a returning Kershaw scheduled to start the next two games, the Dodgers don’t need to add Santana to the roster until Friday at the earliest. This would normally be a prime opportunity for the team to add an extra arm or two in the bullpen, but they are limited by the 10-day rule unless there is another injury besides Maeda. Of course, one thing we’ve seen from the Dodgers in the past couple years is a willingness to use the DL for the most minor of ailments in the name of roster manipulation. One likely candidate would be Daniel Hudson, who has struggled to the tune of a 6.35 ERA this season and threw 47 pitches in relief last night. If that’s not the recipe for “shoulder fatigue,” I don’t know what is.
So at the end of the day, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Liberatore and two others replace Maeda, Hudson, and someone like Scott Alexander on the roster today, with Santana bumping one of the relievers on Friday. That would set Santana up to make his major league debut this weekend against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, a fun test for any young pitcher.