Dodgers manager Dave Roberts spoke to a number of reporters today, including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Roberts addressed a number of issues heading into their NLCS match-up with the Braves. First and foremost, as with the two rounds before, Walker Buehler will start game one, and Clayton Kershaw will start game two. Anything beyond that is too early to call.
Julio Urías was a key contributor for the Dodgers against the Padres, and according to Roberts, he will continue to see “meaningful innings,” per MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick (via Twitter). Urías’ role has changed year-to-year as health and performance have allowed, but come playoff time he tends to – like Kenta Maeda before him – transition into a key bullpen weapon for Roberts. His outings have lengthened this postseason, however, as he’s thrown a total of 8 innings over 2 appearances with a full week of rest between them. In this unprecedented 7-game series in 7 days, Urías could be asked to fill any number of roles.
The same can be said for Dustin May, who managed to both start a game and pitch out of the bullpen in their 3-game NLDS sweep of the Padres. Though he totaled just 3 innings – likely less volume than they could have gotten from him had his usage been limited to a single start – spreading out his outings allowed Roberts to “maximize his impact on multiple games,” per Plunkett. Of course, Roberts was able to follow up May’s 1-inning “opener” outing in game three with Urías for five innings, a luxury he may or may not have in a longer series.
In all likelihood, others on the staff are going to have to provide some length. Tony Gonsolin would have started a game four against San Diego, and he threw a simulated game today. That probably lines him up again for a potential game four or five. He could also come out of the bullpen, of course, as he has on occasion the last two seasons. Roberts and others aren’t just hiding the ball when they say pitcher usage depends on the outcomes of the first couple of games – it really depends on the outcomes of the first couple of games.
On the other side of the ball, Edwin Ríos is about 75% healthy, per Plunkett. He’s a game-time decision, per say, for the NLCS. He was left off of the NLDS because of a groin injury, and if there’s any doubt about his recovery, the Dodgers are likely to be prudent and either go with Gavin Lux again or add another arm to their 14-man staff. Ríos at his best provides a power bat off the bench (or at designated hitter), which could still be useful even if he’s not healthy enough to play the field. While they’re not likely to plan it this way, if there’s any team that has the versatility and depth to carry a single-use bat, it’s the Dodgers.