The Fifth Starter
Everybody knows that Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney will be dubbed the 1-2 combo for 2019 (barring a late Dallas Kuechel signing). The free agency duo of Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill signed with the Halos knowing they’d be apart of the rotation, so there’s your 3rd and 4th arms. But who takes the mound on the fifth day?
The candidates to start Spring Training were vast. Jaime Barria, a standout rookie in 2018, was the lead dog, while other names such as Felix Peña, Nick Tropeano, and Dillon Peters were also in consideration. However, this one seems to be down to two names.
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First off, Nick Tropeano might no longer qualify to be the fifth starter come Opening Day. After suffering another setback rehabbing a shoulder injury, it is unlikely he is ready to pitch when the season begins, but he will certainly remain a factor as the year treads on.
Dillon Peters came into this race a long shot to earn the spot, and despite allowing only one earned run in six innings pitched so far, he would have to sustain that for the remainder of the preseason to even be in noteworthy consideration. Peters will either start the season in Triple-A or as a bullpen option in Anaheim.
The race is down to Peña and Barria. The two have each had success in Spring Training, though Peña has undoubtedly had more. In 5.2 innings pitched he has only allowed two hits and has yet to allow the opposition cross home plate. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has been good so far, with seven and three respectively. While you’d like to see a bigger gap, it is by no means a bad number.
Barria has been solid as well, though. He has allowed two runs in 5.0 innings pitched. Barria hasn’t struck out many batters, but he never did in his exceptional debut season last year. While his numbers aren’t as great as Felix Peña’s, it would still be surprising to see him lose this race to start the year.
While the favorite is still Barria, Peña is creeping up on him. If Barria has one or two bad outings in Tempe, and Peña can continue his dominance in Spring Training, it’d be tough for manager Brad Ausmus to not hand the ball to Felix Peña on the fifth day of the season.