By Jon Weisman
The Dodgers have announced their starting pitchers for the regular season’s remaining six games, and while it is (as always) subject to change, there are some interesting tea leaves to read.
Fresh off a recent conversation with Sandy Koufax (above), Julio Urías has been pegged to start Thursday for the Dodgers, following — in a switch — Kenta Maeda tonight and Jose De León on Wednesday.
With Rich Hill, Clayton Kershaw and Maeda slated for the final series against the Giants, that means veterans Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy would appear to be all but out of consideration for the National League Division Series.
In their only appearances of the month, Anderson threw five innings September 22, Kazmir a single inning September 23 and McCarthy — most encouragingly — six innings of two-run ball September 25.
There’s never been any shortage of surprises with these Dodgers, but you’d be asking any of those pitchers to start on 2 1/2 weeks of rest, simulated innings aside. Game 4 of the NLDS would be played October 11.
Aside from the implications for finalizing the NLDS roster, the main question now is whether Urías, who has a 3.53 ERA this season but has thrown only two innings since September 13, is in a competition with De León to be positioned as No. 4 starter in the playoffs, or whether this is all a backup plan.
Based on Dodger playoff history from 2013-15, Clayton Kershaw would come back on three days’ rest to pitch in Game 4. His recovery from a disk herniation has mostly tabled that concept, but if Kershaw is feeling 100 percent, would you count him out?
Essentially, the Dodgers can start Kershaw in Game 4, turn to one of the rookies, or treat it as a glorified bullpen game, with Urías or De León combining with Ross Stripling to take the starter innings.
We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?
Meanwhile, Hill pitching before Kershaw this weekend in San Francisco shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as a change in the pecking order. It’s far more likely to give Hill an extra day of rest before he takes the mound in the playoffs. By pitching Saturday, Kershaw would open the NLDS on five days’ rest, with Hill on seven days’ rest.
However, if you want to mull something off the wall, consider this: There are three days’ rest between NLDS Game 1 (October 7) and Game 4, but four days’ rest between NLDS Games 2 (October 8) and Game 5 (October 13). So if you wanted Kershaw to pitch on normal rest for two games, a Game 2 start would be the way to go. In that case, though, you’re guaranteeing the need for a fourth starter in the series.
Update: Dave Roberts confirmed tonight that it would be Kershaw, Hill and Maeda to begin the playoffs, in that order.