The Los Angeles Dodgers received encouraging news when an MRI on Rich Hill’s left knee didn’t reveal any structural damage. Hill suffered a strained MCL in his return last week, and his availability moving forward is dependent on pain tolerance.
Although the veteran left-hander avoided being shut down for any period of time, his standing as the Dodgers’ likely Game 4 starter is no longer solidified. Prior to Hill coming off the 60-day injured list, he was expected to stretch out over four September starts.
Now, the Dodgers are prepared to go against the grain. “I think that starting spot is very cloudy right now,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I would just say this: I can see that Game 4 being a little unconventional.
“I think the thing is getting the best eight or nine arms for the ‘pen and going from there.”
The Dodgers’ postseason pitching staff is largely in place. The rotation will comprise of Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu; and the bullpen likely includes Pedro Baez, Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, Adam Kolarek, Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling.
Stripling was scheduled to start Tuesday but was moved to pitch in relief of Caleb Ferguson. Roberts explained the Dodgers felt that was the best decision considering Stripling is poised to be part of the club’s postseason bullpen.
Outside of the aforementioned names, the final three or four spots on the pitching staff will be some combination of Ferguson, Dylan Floro, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Julio Urias. Of those, Ferguson, Gonsolin, May and Urias present Dodgers with options to start a potential Game 4 in October.
“Obviously the season has given us a lot of information, but there’s still a lot of baseball to be played. We still have some opportunities for guys in that bullpen capacity,” Roberts said. “I think the challenge right now is just getting guys innings and trying to put them in situations and see how they fare.”
Gonsolin arguably is the leader to start what is shaping up to be a bullpen game. The Dodgers appear to prefer pitching Urias out of the bullpen, Ferguson has only made two starts this season (one since April), and Gonsolin has been more consistent than May.
Of course, Ferguson or Urias could just as well serve as an opener, with Gonsolin following and taking on the bulk of the innings of a possible Game 4.
What the Dodgers may lack in clarity because of Hill’s knee injury, they at least are well-equipped to go in a multitude of directions.