Justin Wrobleski solid in MLB debut, but two mistakes prove costly in Dodgers loss

Justin Wrobleski didn’t suffer many growing pains in his major league debut Sunday afternoon.

His first time on a big league mound, the 23-year-old left-hander showed virtually no signs of nerves or intimidation.

“He even said there were some starts in triple-A that he felt more nervous than he did today,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Which you don’t hear very often. But I think he meant it.”

In the Dodgers’ 9-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium, Wrobleski did learn a couple of important lessons.

Twice, he left a pitch over the heart of the plate.

And both times, he turned around to watch them sail out of the yard, the only blemishes in his five-inning, four-run, four-strikeout MLB debut.

“That’s part of the game,” Wrobleski said. “But end of the day I can’t be too up or down about anything. It was an awesome day for me.”

Three weeks ago, Wrobleski was a rising — yet not widely known — name in the Dodgers’ minor league system.

An 11th-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State in 2021, Wrobleski impressed with a 2.90 ERA in high A last season, then went 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 13 double-A starts to begin this season.

He was promoted to triple A only a couple of weeks ago, giving up five total runs in his first two starts there.

But this week, with the Dodgers electing to give the rest of their rotation an extra day of rest at the end of a six-game homestand, Wrobleski was called up to fill the gap, becoming the second starting pitching prospect to debut for the club this season (joining Landon Knack) and eighth in the last three seasons overall.

“I’m really, really impressed with the way he carries himself, the way he carried himself today,” Roberts said of Wrobleski, the club’s No. 13 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline. “You can just see he wasn’t running from major league hitters. He was going after them and attacking.”

Wrobleski’s only real mistakes came near the end of his outing.

In the fourth inning, he hung a slider that former National League most valuable player Christian Yelich crushed to center field for a two-run home run. In the fifth, Wrobleski was punished for catching too much of the plate again, throwing a center-cut fastball that veteran catcher Eric Haase hammered for another two-run shot.

On a day the Dodgers went one for nine with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 men on base — their lone runs came on a Chris Taylor homer in the sixth inning — that was enough for the Brewers, who tacked on five late runs against the Dodgers’ bullpen, to avoid a weekend sweep at Chavez Ravine.

“He would love to have [those pitches] back,” Roberts said. “but all things taken into consideration, I thought he did a really nice job.”

Wrobleski figures to be one of several young arms the Dodgers will lean on for depth over the second half of the season.

Knack is currently holding down one rotation spot, owning an impressive 2.86 ERA through seven starts this season. Two other top prospects, right-handers River Ryan and Kyle Hurt, are also currently in triple A (though Hurt recently left a start with a trainer).

The Dodgers could still use another frontline pitcher to compensate for the loss of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who was on an All-Star trajectory before suffering a strained rotator cuff in his shoulder last month.

But between the team’s young pitching pipeline, and the expected returns of Yamamoto, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Dustin May later this summer, their need for bottom-of-the-rotation additions leading up to MLB’s July 30 trade deadline have been eased.

Instead, as Sunday’s lackluster offensive performance again showed, another bat might be a more pressing need for the club right now — especially with Mookie Betts still out because of his broken hand.

“I think we’ve done a nice job of sort of trying to weather it and still winning baseball games,” Roberts said. “We won a series against a good ballclub over there. But yeah, we just have to go out there and take good at-bats. … It’s in there. We just have to get that hit with runners on base and put up more runs.”

Clayton Kershaw throws sim game

Clayton Kershaw’s recovery process from offseason shoulder surgery was back underway as the left-hander threw two innings in a simulated game at Dodger Stadium on Sunday morning.

The outing was Kershaw’s first time facing live hitting since reporting soreness in his shoulder following a rehabilitation outing with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga last month.

Kershaw stopped throwing for about a week after that, during which time he had an MRI exam that revealed no new damage in his shoulder, as well as injections to help alleviate the pain.

This week, he began playing catch again. After Sunday’s outing, he should be ready to resume his minor league rehab stint next week, too, though manager Dave Roberts said he didn’t know exactly when or with which affiliate that next start will take place.

“I thought Clayton was good,” Roberts said of Kershaw’s outing Sunday, in which he faced big league teammates Gavin Lux, James Outman and Cavan Biggio, as well as a couple of minor league hitters. “We accomplished what we wanted to.”

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