With the posting status of Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka changing almost daily (if not hourly), it’s beginning to look more and more that the likelihood of him becoming a Dodger is… well, less and less. And even though Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has said that they are still interested in Tanaka as a middle-of-the-rotation guy (what a wonderful position for the Dodgers to be in, isn’t it?), Colletti also said that their interest in him is not what it once was and that they are prepared to move on without him.
It’s also relatively safe to say that the Dodgers have never been more than lukewarm on signing 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price because of what he would cost the Dodgers in top prospects, although with Colletti you can never completely rule this out.
With the top four spots in the Dodgers starting rotation set with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu and recently acquired veteran Dan Haren, that still leaves the number five spot in the rotation up for grabs – although every indication is that it will go to 33-year-old right-hander Josh Beckett.
…or will it?
After beginning the 2013 season with a dismal 0-5 record and 5.19 ERA, Beckett was shut down and eventually underwent a rather unusual surgery for a condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), in which one of his ribs was removed to relieve pressure in his shoulder and collarbone area. Although somewhat rare, there have been several other MLB pitchers affected by TOS including Mets starting pitcher Shaun Marcum, Rangers SP Matt Harrison, Giants SP Noah Lowry and Cardinals SP Chris Carpenter. Unfortunately, only Harrison and Marcum are still in the game with Carpenter having announced his retired just last month and Lowry unsuccessful thus far in his comeback attempt.
Ironically, Beckett was seriously considering retiring after being diagnosed with TOS but was convinced to undergo the surgery and encouraged to attempt a comeback. Early reports have been very favorable for the Spring, TX native and he is ahead of schedule in his recovery and is expected to be 100% when pitchers and catchers report for spring training on February 12, 2014.
But in spite of the optimism surrounding Beckett’s recovery and rehabilitation, there is always the possibility that he may not be able to return to the major leagues. And while no one wants to think this, Colletti needs to have a Plan-B ready. That being said, the Dodgers still have very capable arms in Stephen Fife and Matt Magill, either of whom could land the number five spot in the rotation out of spring training if Beckett can’t go. They also have top pitching prospects Zach Lee, Ross Stripling and Chris Reed Down of the Farm, and with Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten’s commitment to “get younger,” there is a very good chance that we may see one (or more) of these guys in the Dodgers rotation during the 2014 season.
Through it all Beckett has maintained a very positive attitude and has been a great teammate, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the two-time World Series Champion fill in nicely as a number five starter in 2014 – which also just so happens to be the final year of his four-year/$68 million contract.