Dave Roberts told reporters Friday that the Dodgers don’t plan to take more than 13 pitchers — and might bring as few as 12 — to the three-game opening round of the playoffs.
This surprised me, because drawing from their quality pitching depth has been fundamental to the Dodgers delivering the best record in baseball this year and the best winning percentage in franchise history. They have spent most of the season with 15 pitchers on their active roster.
Even in a three-game series bracketed by off days, the Dodgers don’t have the kind of guaranteed innings from their starting pitchers that would likely forestall needing a bevy of relievers.
Based on his 2020 performance, Alex Wood is an easy cut. But making a second cut means losing someone like Joe Kelly or Adam Kolarek — someone who has made noteworthy contributions this season, however intermittently.
A four-man bench has been sufficent for the Dodgers this season, so the question is whether two more position players would make a difference. One certainly could — adding a third catcher in Keibert Ruiz would mean that Will Smith could start at designated hitter on his non-catching days without needing to also serve as Austin Barnes’ backup. (If a designated hitter enters a game at a defensive position, the team loses the DH and the pitcher enters the lineup.)
If they added another position player, the leading candidates are Matt Beaty or Zach McKinstry. In a three-game series, neither would get a start except in an absolute emergency. Both are left-handed hitters, so one scenario you might see them in would be if the Dodgers started Joc Pederson, pinch-hit for him with Kiké Hernández and then wanted to hit for Hernández. The Dodgers might also have McKinstry in mind as a pinch-runner.
Here’s how the Dodger roster would appear to shake out for the first round (players at each position are listed in alphabetical order):
Starting pitchers (3): Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin, Clayton Kershaw
Left-handed relievers (3): Victor González, Jake McGee, Julio Urías
Right-handed relievers (6): Pedro Baez, Brusdar Graterol, Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, Dustin May, Blake Treinen
Catchers (3): Austin Barnes, Keibert Ruiz, Will Smith
Infielders (5): Gavin Lux, Max Muncy, Edwin Ríos, Corey Seager, Justin Turner
Infielder-outfielders (4): Cody Bellinger, Kiké Hernández, Zach McKinstry, Chris Taylor
Outfielders (3): Mookie Betts, Joc Pederson, A.J. Pollock
28th man: Matt Beaty or Adam Kolarek