The Dodgers pitching staff took another hit Monday.
The team placed Tony Gonsolin on the injured list with a right forearm strain, preventing the All-Star right-hander from making a scheduled start Monday night against the Miami Marlins.
Right-hander Michael Grove was recalled to start the game, instead.
In the wake of Monday’s announcement, Gonsolin, manager Dave Roberts and multiple other people with knowledge of the situation all echoed the same sentiments:
The pitcher’s injury is not believed to be serious, the team was being cautious by placing him on the IL, and he is expected to be back in the Dodgers rotation in time for the playoffs.
“I’m definitely feeling optimistic with it, that whenever the IL stint is done, I’m going to be coming off and feeling 100 percent,” Gonsolin said. “It’s overall just kind of playing it safe and really let it heal.”
Gonsolin said he felt forearm tightness at various points this season, but that the sensation lingered longer than usual after his most recent start last Tuesday.
He alerted team personnel of the issue Sunday, and passed a series of ligament tests that he said made an MRI unnecessary. He also played catch Sunday and said the ball was coming out fine, but that the tightness did not subside.
That’s when the club decided an IL stint was the best course of action for the right-hander, who is leading the majors with a 16-1 record and the National League with a 2.10 ERA.
“He’s gone so hard all year, so to make that IL move, to skip two starts, it just didn’t seem like a whole lot of cost,” Roberts said. “Hopefully that’ll kind of reset him and get him ready for the postseason.”
Still, any missed time this late in the season presents uncertainty.
The earliest Gonsolin will be eligible to return is Sept. 10. The Dodgers’ first playoff game likely would be almost exactly a month later. That doesn’t leave much margin for any setbacks or unforeseen delays.
“It does kind of suck, the time, coming into September,” Gonsolin said. “But I do think it’s also a blessing a little bit. Give me a little break and then go into the playoffs.”
What makes the Dodgers, who have had several other pitching injuries this year linger longer than initially expected, confident Gonsolin’s timetable will remain on the shorter end?
“It’s just the symptoms,” Roberts said. “As far as, he was still able to play catch yesterday, and just where he’s at, and the evaluation from the docs, feels like it’s just — we got ahead of it early.” And I think we’re being extra cautious right now putting him on the IL, to be quite honest.”
Roberts said the team had already been considering giving Gonsolin some sort of break down the stretch this season, as he’d already doubled his previous MLB-high workload with more than 128 innings this year.
“So, now when there’s a little smoke,” Roberts said, “we felt that this is that opportunity.”
It does create some complications, though.
With Clayton Kershaw set to return from a back injury on either Thursday or Friday, Roberts had said as recently as Sunday the team would use a six-man rotation for the next couple of weeks — one that was supposed to include Gonsolin.
Now, as has happened so many times already to the Dodgers this season, their pitching plans are being altered again.
Already, the team has lost opening day starter Walker Buehler for the year to Tommy John surgery.
Dustin May only recently returned from his own Tommy John surgery. Kershaw has missed two months with a couple of back injuries. Andrew Heaney has been out for extended stretches with shoulder problems.
Then, there is the bullpen, which will be without Daniel Hudson for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, and is still waiting to see how many of the team’s currently rehabilitating relievers — Blake Treinen, Tommy Kahnle, Victor González and Danny Duffy — will be able to contribute come October.
The Dodgers will still have starting depth in Gonsolin’s absence, with a rotation of Julio Urías, Kershaw, May, Heaney and Tyler Anderson.
Roberts said they are still considering whether to add a sixth man to that group, as well, in order to still give the others an extra day of rest between outings.
And despite all of their absences, they continue to lead the majors in team ERA.
The Dodgers are hopeful Monday’s news won’t significantly impact the pitching staff in the long run, and that Gonsolin will be able to come back and complete his breakout 2022 campaign by playing a key role in the playoffs.
But, until he does, he’ll be another question mark for the Dodgers to manage down the stretch, his strained forearm giving the team one more unknown to navigate over the final month of the season.