LOS ANGELES – Tony Gonsolin’s season is all but over. It hardly felt like it got going, capped off with a 10-run drubbing Friday night that signaled the end of his time in the rotation.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, citing right forearm inflammation, finally did what has been discussed often in recent weeks and placed the 29-year-old on the injured list. Gonsolin is “unlikely” to pitch again this season, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Saturday. He very well could require surgery, depending on the results of further testing this week.
“I think that all pitchers have something going on with their arms and elbows, with the mileage,” Roberts said. “But (we) were all aligned as far as it made sense for us to continue to give (Gonsolin) the baseball. And right now we just feel where we’re at, the IL is the best course of action.”
The right-hander was clearly never right, as his 4.98 ERA (12th-worst among starters with at least 100 innings) would show. But Los Angeles insisted that Gonsolin deserved to work through his struggles; Gonsolin on Friday night conceded the issue was impacting his stuff, including his fastball velocity which sat at a career-low 92.4 mph.
Dodgers facing decision after Tony Gonsolin’s career-worst start
“I mean, was (Gonsolin’s elbow) pain-free? Probably not,” Roberts said. “But I know as an organization, we were very clear in saying and knowing that you’re not going to hurt yourself worse, and we’re not going to try to do that to the player. So we were all aligned and felt good about that. So I do commend him (for trying to pitch).”
Gonsolin was a breakout star a year ago, a first-time All-Star who set career bests in innings pitched while going 16-1 with a 2.14 ERA. That, of course, came with its own set of complications. His momentum was stunted when he landed on the injured list last August with forearm inflammation, throwing just 3 1/3 innings once he came back.
He also dealt with shoulder trouble throughout his 2021 season.
The pileup of arm trouble seemed to trigger how the Dodgers structured their contract offer to him this winter to avoid arbitration this year and next — several of the escalators on his two-year, $6.65 million deal were based on starts and appearances of at least 3 1/3 innings. His team-leading 20 starts this season have helped him add $2 million to his $3.4 million base salary for next season. His start Friday alone was worth an extra $500,000.
Durability has been a concern, even if performance hadn’t been prior to this season. But a sprained ankle cost him the first month of the year. When he came back, he didn’t look like himself. He has dealt with elbow trouble for the last month-and-a-half, and he has now allowed four or more runs in eight of his last 11 starts, including his blowup start Friday night.
Gonsolin had already likely pitched himself out of any of Los Angeles’ postseason plans. Now, there are further long-term concerns.
The Dodgers already have two major pieces of their 2024 pitching plans coming off major surgery. Walker Buehler is an option at some point this season to come off his second Tommy John surgery. Dustin May underwent a flexor tendon repair and Tommy John revision in July and won’t be back until at least midseason next year.
Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urías will be free agents at year’s end. If they don’t pick up Lance Lynn’s $18 million club option, Los Angeles’ only healthy starters under club control for next year are rookies Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot, Gavin Stone, Emmet Sheehan and Michael Grove. Ryan Yarbrough, acquired at the deadline to be a swingman, is also entering his final year of arbitration next season.
Roberts said Pepiot, who was called up as the 27th man for Saturday’s doubleheader, is a candidate to take Gonsolin’s spot in the rotation. Pepiot made the Opening Day rotation but has been on the shelf all year with an oblique/intercostal issue. Roberts also pointed to Stone and Yarbrough as candidates as the Dodgers look to get through the stretch run.
(Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)