MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Wood returns as Dodgers shape pitching staff

Lefty logs 3 innings vs. KC; Urias among pitchers sent to Minors camp

Wood returns as Dodgers shape pitching staff

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With the return of Alex Wood in Thursday's 5-1 loss to the Royals after missing his last start because of a tender left forearm, the Dodgers' starting rotation is finally falling into place.

After all, Opening Day against the Padres at Petco Park on April 4 is a little more than two weeks away.

It has been known for awhile that Clayton Kershaw would start the opener, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts finally ended all speculation on Thursday morning by saying he will be followed in succession by Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda and Wood.

"The four starters, we're right there," Roberts said before his club fell to the defending World Series champions at Camelback Ranch. "As far as that fifth spot, we're still trying to figure that out."

After the loss of Brett Anderson, the fifth rotation spot is up for grabs between Brandon Beachy, Mike Bolsinger and Zach Lee. And the Dodgers will certainly have to come out of camp with a fifth starter since they open the season with three games at San Diego and four at San Francisco in the first seven days of the regular season.

This is the state of the Dodgers' pitching staff:

Zack Greinke defected to the D-backs as a free agent in December for six years, $205 million.

Anderson is out for the season because of back surgery. Hyun-Jin Ryu is recovering from left shoulder surgery, and Roberts seems to think he won't be back until June, at the earliest. Ryu is slated to throw a 20-pitch bullpen on Friday. And Brandon McCarthy is less than a full year out from Tommy John surgery. Don't expect to see him until after the All-Star break.

That's $36.1 million worth of pitching out of action.

Meanwhile, Beachy is a two-time Tommy John patient, Bolsinger was bounced back and forth from the Dodgers to Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, and Lee has made just one Major League start, pitching most of the season at Triple-A.

It's no wonder that Roberts was also eyeing the possibility of quickly accelerating the progress of phenom left-hander Julio Urias, but there was counter sentiment from the baseball operations department not to rush him to the Majors. Urias is only 19 years old.

And folloiwng Thursday's game, Urias was sent to the Minor League camp, along with fellow pitchers Jose De Leon, Yaisel Sierra, Ross Stripling and Ian Thomas, plus infielder Micah Johnson and catcher Jack Murphy.

That leaves 47 players in camp.

Stripling's hitless outing

Roberts lauded the spring work of Urias, De Leon and Stripling, but the skipper admitted in the end that they just weren't ready. Urias, in particular.

"As polished as he is, he isn't a finished product," Roberts said. "But he's special. Despite his age, we wanted him to be ready right now. But his execution wasn't where it needed to be."

Considering all of the above, it's not the way the 43-year-old Roberts wanted to start his first big league managing job of any kind, let alone the Dodgers. Yet, you go into the season with the baseball team you have, not with the one you wished you had.

"But you know what? Things happen in baseball," Roberts said with a laugh. "That's a big part of it. Honestly, with the guys we have in camp, we expect those other guys back, but we have to get ready for a season."

Roberts took the managerial job on Nov. 23. On Dec. 8, the Dodgers lost Greinke to the D-backs. On March 1, Anderson threw a round of batting practice and complained about tightness in his lower back. On March 3, Anderson had surgery to repair a disc, the second time since 2014 that's happened in his injury-plagued career.

At the time of the disclosure, Roberts professed to be "shocked."

Wood made his first start on March 7 and allowed five runs on four hits in two innings. A few days later, he complained about what he called on Thursday "abnormal tightness" in his left forearm.

"It wasn't going away," said Wood, who threw three innings against the Royals, allowing a run on four hits with a walk and a strikeout. "I think it stemmed from the effort I had to make in getting through that first start. It was a smart move to skip my last start. We can say that now that I went out there and had a clean start. So it was good from that standpoint."

It wasn't as if Wood was gangbusters for the Dodgers last season after the July 30 trade that brought him over from the Dodgers. He was 5-6 with a 4.35 ERA in 12 starts, and in two of them -- one at Arizona and the other at Colorado -- he was charged with eight runs in each game.

What's more, Wood missed his freshman year at Georgia in 2010 recovering from Tommy John surgery. And tightness in the forearm is a harbinger of it happening again.

No wonder the Dodgers are so cautious with Wood. He has thrown five spring innings, including Thursday's outing. Wood is not nearly ready, and that, in essence, is the state of their starting staff behind Kershaw.

"I hear you," Roberts said. "But honestly, that's where we're at right now."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.