Dodgers rookie Ryan Pepiot’s biggest mentor is LA’s breakout ace

Adam Weinrib
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 10: Ryan Pepiot #47 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning at Dodger Stadium on August 10, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 10: Ryan Pepiot #47 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning at Dodger Stadium on August 10, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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For a team with clear annual World Series aspirations, the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ future rotation is strangely unsettled, especially after the announcement that ace Walker Buehler would undergo the second Tommy John surgery of his baseball career.

Most of the team’s injections of “star power,” outside of the Max Scherzer move, have come in the lineup, while in-house options and reclamation projects have typically been used to eat innings in the regular season through October. Clayton Kershaw rose from the internal ranks, as did Buehler and Julio Urías.

A pitcher like Ryan Pepiot has no reason to get discouraged about future opportunities, even as the team faces a clear chance to upgrade their starting unit after this season, when Andrew Heaney, Tyler Anderson and Kershaw himself will all be free agents. There will be veteran help imported, sure, but Pepiot will get a fair shake, with names like Bobby Miller and Nick Nastrini soon to follow.

As he prepares to make a second impression next winter, what better mentor to have than Tony Gonsolin, the last minor-leaguer with quote-unquote “fringe” stuff who bounced around, scuffled in the postseason, faced sophomore struggles, and has reemerged as a 16-1 fire-breather out of nowhere?

Pepiot appeared on this week’s episode of The Incline: Dodgers Podcast, and revealed that he’s buddied up with Gonsolin, both in and out of the locker room.

Dodgers rookie Ryan Pepiot is being mentored by the Cat Man himself, Tony Gonsolin

“I’ve probably hung out with Tony [Gonsolin] the most,” Pepiot told The Incline. “We’ve had our lockers next to each other the whole time. He’s closer to my age, I’ve known him for a couple years, and we’ve been able to talk. So now he’s like, ‘OK, this was me a few years ago, let me help you out’.”

“So we go to breakfast all the time on the road, or when we’re here in LA, and in the locker room, we’re just talking all the time,” he continued. “But honestly, everybody’s super genuine, so I try to pick little pieces from everybody.”

Wait, this year’s Dodgers have incredible chemistry and would obviously be across-the-board helpful to a top prospect/future contributor? You don’t say!

Gonsolin does have plenty of experience with bursting onto the scene with force (2.93 ERA in 2019, 2.31 ERA and fourth-place Rookie of the Year finish in 2020), as well as dealing with the inevitable disappointment that comes with this massive stage (eg, his spotty 2020 playoff starts and walk issues in 2021).

He didn’t let that spiral, though, and at age 28, has emerged as his best possible self for a record-approaching Dodgers team. Pretty good advisor to have.

In seven big-league starts this season, Pepiot has battled his control, too (22 walks in 31.1 innings), but has acquitted himself well enough, setting a solid foundation for his potential age-25/26 season in the spotlight next year.

Though the Dodgers have endless financial resources, the team is just as dedicated to internal pitching development, and Pepiot should get a fighting shot at a rotation spot. If Gonsolin’s case has taught him anything, it’s that the Dodgers will give talented arms repeated chances to improve in the spotlight.

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