Tony Gonsolin was already on thin ice with the Los Angeles Dodgers as the team's starting rotation turned a corner while he lagged behind. Gonsolin then turned in the worst start of his career on Friday, allowing 10 runs on five home runs in only 3.1 innings pitched.
It didn't take long for Gonsolin to then hit the injured list. Despite only being placed on the 15-day IL, manager Dave Roberts told reporters that it's unlikely that Gonsolin will pitch again this season. Where one door closes another opens, though, and Gonsolin's injury will provide a young pitcher the chance to get more big-league reps under his belt.
The most likely replacement for Gonsolin in the short term is Ryan Pepiot, who returned from his oblique injury weeks ago and has made six starts for the Oklahoma City Dodgers since. The 26-year-old right-hander was called upon for a spot start on Saturday's re-scheduled doubleheader and pitched well, allowing just one run over five innings against the same lineup that mashed Gonsolin.
Whether or not Pepiot makes the postseason roster remains to be seen, but this opportunity to string together some starts for the big-league club could have long-term implications for himself as well as Gonsolin.
Tony Gonsolin's injury opens the door for Ryan Pepiot to replace him long-term for the Dodgers
Gonsolin still has several years of team control and there's a world in which both he and Pepiot are in the rotation together in the future. However, the way the Dodgers have traditionally handled pitchers like Gonsolin in the past, it seems very plausible that he could be moved in the future.
Ross Stripling was in a very similar position as Gonsolin, minus the injury. He was a former All-Star who had shown a lot of potential but was the odd man out in the rotation. As a result, the Dodgers sold high on Stripling to both open up the rotation and give him a chance to start every five days.
That could happen with Gonsolin. There are a lot of unknowns with the Dodgers starting rotation in 2024 (such as Clayton Kershaw's and Julio Urías' future). But it still isn't hard to envision a starting rotation without Gonsolin. Walker Buehler, Bobby Miller, Lance Lynn (club option) and Gavin Stone all have better cases to make than the veteran right-hander.
Throw in a potential Shohei Ohtani signing (or re-signing Kershaw/Urías) and there is even less room for Gonsolin. If Pepiot excels down the stretch in 2023, Gonsolin suddenly finds himself as the seventh or eighth starter in LA with no real role on the team.
The Dodgers are always going to favor the younger talent. Gonsolin's MLB career may be young, but he's going to be turning 30 in May of 2024; the same age Stripling was when the Dodgers traded him in favor of the younger arms (which was Gonsolin at the time).
It would be a full-circle moment for Gonsolin's career on the Dodgers and is an important development to keep in mind when watching Pepiot on the mound as the playoffs approach.