LOS ANGELES ― Tony Gonsolin threw six shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox on June 13, improving his record to 4-1 and his ERA to a sterling 1.93. It was a turning point in his season – just not the kind he or the Dodgers had imagined.
An MRI the next day revealed “damage” to Gonsolin’s right elbow, he said Tuesday. From that day forward, he felt Tommy John surgery was inevitable. Friday, he will undergo the procedure to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, ending his 2023 season and possibly his 2024 campaign as well.
The fact that Gonsolin made another 11 starts at all was no small feat. As recently as July 26, his fastball was still touching 95 mph. The first sign something was wrong, besides the elbow pain he began feeling a game or two before the start against the White Sox, was his command. As his ability to throw his slider for a strike worsened, the pitch faded from his repertoire.
Eventually, the 95s and 94s on the radar gun became 93s and 92s. When the Miami Marlins scored 10 runs against Gonsolin on Aug. 18, the writing was on the wall.
“I kind of just pitched out of necessity,” he said Tuesday. “We had Kersh (Clayton Kershaw) down for a time. Julio (Urías) was down for a time. (Emmet) Sheehan got called up from Double-A. I felt like I was just pitching out of necessity. I thought I could do it. I thought I had the capability to do it. It got to the point where the stuff just really wasn’t performing. Went through a lot of tough results, tough outings to get to that realization.”
Fans weren’t the only ones unaware Gonsolin had been pitching with a UCL tear for more than two months; he said some teammates who joined the team after the diagnosis didn’t know either.
Gonsolin finishes the season 8-5 with a 4.98 ERA in 20 starts. Now, with 30 games left on the schedule and the largest lead of any division leader in baseball, the Dodgers have some freedom to determine who will take his place in the rotation.
Ryan Pepiot will pitch the bulk of the innings Wednesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, either as a starter or in relief of an opener, Manager Dave Roberts said. Rookie Gavin Stone pitched the bulk of the innings Sunday in Boston.
Roberts wouldn’t rule out a scenario in which Stone and Pepiot take turns holding down Gonsolin’s place in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Making a decision isn’t imperative. The Dodgers’ top four starters are healthy. As long as that is true, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, Lance Lynn and Bobby Miller can proceed directly to the postseason roster without passing go. Left-hander Ryan Yarbrough has settled in nicely to a long relief role, and Roberts isn’t eager to displace him.
The Angels’ Lucas Giolito and the New York Mets’ Carlos Carrasco were among the starting pitchers reportedly placed on waivers as of Tuesday. If any team claims them over the next 48 hours, they would be eligible to compete for their new team in the playoffs.
But the Dodgers have the third-lowest waiver priority in MLB by virtue of their record, and Roberts said “I don’t see those marquee names in play.”
Pitching for Triple-A Oklahoma City, Blake Treinen allowed three runs in one-third of an inning as the veteran reliever continued his comeback attempt from offseason shoulder surgery. He allowed two singles, two stolen bases, one walk, and was charged with the loss. The right-hander didn’t allow a hit or a walk in either of his first two relief appearances at Triple-A. … Right-hander Jimmy Nelson, who had not appeared in a competitive game since Aug. 12, pitched a scoreless eighth inning in the game. Nelson, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2021, is attempting to return from Tommy John surgery. … Veteran infielder Kolten Wong, whom the Dodgers signed to a minor league contract after he was released by the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 4, is 7 for 13 with a home run and two doubles in his first three games at Oklahoma City.
Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Brandon Pfaadt, 1-6, 5.91 ERA) at Dodgers (opener or Ryan Pepiot, 0-0, 2.00 ERA), Wednesday, 7 p.m., SportsNet LA, MLB Network (out of town only), 570 AM
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