As rough as Friday night was for Tony Gonsolin, who gave up a career-high 10 earned runs and five homers in 3 ⅓ innings of a blowout loss to the Miami Marlins, the morning after was even worse for the Dodgers right-hander.
Gonsolin was placed on the 15-day injured list because of right forearm inflammation before Saturday’s split doubleheader, and manager Dave Roberts said it is “unlikely” the 2022 All-Star will return this season.
“Coming off an All-Star season, you have certain expectations for the organization, for the player, so it’s disappointing,” Roberts said. “But some things are out of your control. It’s an injury.”
Gonsolin, who missed the last five weeks of the 2022 season because of a right forearm strain and the first four weeks of 2023 because of a left-ankle sprain, will undergo an MRI test this week that should reveal the extent of the injury and if he needs surgery.
Roberts had made vague references to Gonsolin “not being 100%” for several weeks, but it wasn’t until Friday night that he acknowledged for the first time publicly that Gonsolin has been dealing with an “arm issue” for four to six weeks.
The manager said the team’s medical staff assured him that Gonsolin would not do any further damage to his elbow by continuing to pitch.
“It’s been six weeks where he hasn’t felt great,” Roberts said. “So I do commend him wholeheartedly [for pitching through discomfort]. I think he’s gained the respect of the guys in the clubhouse, and he never made it an excuse.”
Gonsolin, 29, went 16-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 24 starts during his breakout 2022 season, but he muddled his way through 2023 with a diminished fastball and a four-pitch mix that wasn’t nearly as crisp as it was last season.
Still, the Dodgers thought Gonsolin turned a corner in his previous start, when he responded to a first-pitch homer by Colorado shortstop Ezequiel Tovar to throw six two-hit, shutout innings with six strikeouts and no walks in a 4-1 win over the Rockies on Aug. 12.
But Gonsolin took a massive step backward in Friday night’s 11-3 loss, when he gave up solo homers to Jorge Soler in the first and third innings, a three-run homer to Jake Burger and a two-run shot to Jacob Stallings in the third. and a three-run homer to Jazz Chisolm Jr. in the fourth to fall to 8-5 with a 4.98 ERA in 20 starts on the season.
Gonsolin had not given up more than five earned runs or two homers in any of his 70 career starts.
“I don’t think he had life to his fastball,” Roberts said after the game. “He missed a lot of pitches, and when he needed swing and miss or soft contact, he didn’t have that with his breaking ball and all of his secondary pitches. … He just wasn’t sharp all around.”
Gonsolin, who, despite his All-Star season, signed a two-year, $6.65-million contract extension last winter to avoid arbitration, said the injury impacted his stuff more than command. Roberts said it was difficult to determine how much of Gonsolin’s struggles were performance-related or injury-related.
“I think it’s a combo, like most things,” Roberts said. “I do think there’s something with the mechanics that over time gets changed and manipulated. So I don’t think there’s a really clear answer, but I think all of it has led to the inflated ERA.”
Among the candidates to replace Gonsolin in the rotation are right-hander Ryan Pepiot, who was called up from triple-A to serve as the 27th man for Saturday’s doubleheader and entered Game 1 against the Marlins in the second inning.
Triple-A right-handers Emmet Sheehan, who went 3-1 with a 5.63 ERA in eight games for the Dodgers from mid-June to early August, and Gavin Stone, who had a 12.75 ERA in four games–three of them starts–for the Dodgers in May and July, and swingman Ryan Yarbrough are also candidates.