With limited funds, Colletti worked to add quantity as well as quality. First Ted Lilly, who was acquired in a mid-season trade, was re-signed to a three-year contract to give the rotation a strong veteran presence. The southpaw pitched well for the Dodgers, going 7-4 with 3.52 ERA in 12 starts after being acquired from the Cubs. Lilly has been one of the most consistent starting pitchers in baseball, winning at least ten games each of the past eight seasons. The Dodgers are counting on Lilly to continue his consistent, winning ways.
Next Colletti secured the services of Hiroki Kuroda by re-signing him to a one year deal. Kuroda has been solid if unspectacular the past three seasons. His overall record is 28-30 with a 3.60 ERA, but he set career highs in every major category last season with 11 wins, 196.1 innings pitched, 159 strikeouts, and a 3.39 ERA. At 35 years of age, the Dodgers are hoping that Kuroda has one more solid year left in the tank.
With Lilly and Kuroda back in the fold, Colletti was not done just yet. Seeking to add a little more depth, Colletti went after one of the better starters on the market. Valuing consistency and durability, the Dodgers snagged one of the most undervalued and overlooked starters in baseball, as they signed veteran Jon Garland to a one-year deal with a club option for 2012.
Garland pitched in 2009 for the Dodgers and performed well. Garland has been among the most consistent starting pitchers since 2002 ranking fifth in games started with 292, eighth with 121 wins, and ninth with 1,842.2 innings pitched. Garland also has that all-important championship experience as he helped the White Sox to the title in 2005.
Still not content and looking to add more depth, Colletti went after his opening day pitcher from 2010 and brought back veteran Vincente Padilla. Padilla was signed to provide insurance and depth for the rotation as well as to provide long relief in the bullpen.
The ace of the staff this season has to be the young lefty, Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw has the potential to be a stud, a true number one stopper. Kershaw has shown steady improvement in each of his first three seasons. The Dodgers are counting upon the young, soon-to-be 23 year old, southpaw to anchor the staff and fully establish himself this year. If he does, the Dodgers should be contenders for the NL West.
The team is also counting on righty Chad Billingsley to return to the form he had in 2008 when he won 16 games. Billingsley is coming off two straight 12-11 seasons, but lowered his ERA from 4.03 to 3.57 and cut his number of walks by 17. The Dodgers need Billingsley to continue to improve if they are going to return to the top of the division in 2011.
The Dodgers were certainly very aggressive in turning this area of weakness into a strength. If they stay healthy, this rotation should give new manager Don Mattingly a lot of innings and should keep them in every game. They are counting on Kershaw to continue his march to becoming a bona fide ace. He needs to become the ace who can go head-to-head with guys like Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay. The Dodgers must have consistency from this group of veterans and will need a career year out of one or two of their other starters if they are going to unseat the Giants and hope to compete with the likes of the Phillies, Braves, Brewers, and Cardinals.
This rotation certainly has the experience and the talent to be competitive and make the Dodgers a legitimate contender. But age is a big concern as Garland, Lilly, and Kuroda have thrown a lot of innings in their respective careers. Pitching Coach Rick Honeycutt and manager Don Mattingly will have to make sure to protect these guys and keep them fresh for the stretch run. Surprisingly, Padilla could be the key to the success of this staff as he can give a guy that all-important extra day of rest and make the occasional start here and there. I like this rotation. There is a nice mix of experience, durability, depth, and some youth. If they stay healthy, and if Kershaw takes that next step, this team could surprise a few people.