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Dodgers’ Approach: Prioritizing Rest to Safeguard Starting Pitchers

Mark Prior, a 22-year-old second-year major-leaguer, amassed 234⅔ innings over 33 starts during the 2003 season with the Chicago Cubs, including the postseason.

During his regular-season starts, Prior averaged 113 pitches, exceeding 120 pitches nine times and surpassing 130 pitches three times in September and once in his first postseason start. Over his final six regular-season starts and three postseason outings, Prior threw a total of 1,125 pitches. Most of his starts, including two of the three postseason outings, occurred with four days of rest.

Reflecting on his playing days, Prior acknowledges that the expectations and practices regarding pitcher workload were different then. He emphasizes the importance of recognizing the evolution of the game.

The Dodgers have been proactive in adapting to these changes, particularly in managing their starting pitchers. Since Andrew Friedman assumed control of the Dodgers’ front office in 2015, their starters have received more than four days of rest in approximately two-thirds of all regular-season games. This season, they have emphasized rest and recovery even more, with only one pitcher starting on as little as four days of rest.

The Dodgers have also employed bullpen games as part of their strategy to provide additional rest for their starters. Despite initial skepticism, bullpen games have proven effective, with the Dodgers winning 13 out of 19 such games over the past three seasons.

While some suggest transitioning to a six-man rotation, the Dodgers find this impractical due to roster constraints and its impact on bullpen depth. Nonetheless, they remain committed to managing workload and ensuring pitcher health.

Looking ahead, the Dodgers aim to sustain this strategy throughout the season, leveraging their depth in the pitching rotation to maintain peak performance. As they prioritize the long-term health of their pitchers, they acknowledge the uncertainties and complexities of their approach, striving to optimize performance while minimizing injury risk.

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