As the Los Angeles Dodgers were inching closer to officially clinching a seventh consecutive National League West title, manager Dave Roberts was shuffling the deck with his pitching staff in effort to determine a postseason rotation and bullpen.
It began to take more shape once it was clear Rich Hill would return from a strained flexor tendon. However, Hill then failed to get out of the first inning in his start last week because of an MCL strain in his left knee.
It prompted an MRI, which did not reveal any structural damage, and thus has Hill in position to continue pitching so longer as he can tolerate discomfort.
If Hill is unable to start a Game 4 in the postseason, the Dodgers have options in Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Julio Urias. Ross Stripling was once perceived to be part of that group, and he was scheduled to start Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
L.A. instead is having Stripling appear in relief of Caleb Ferguson in preparation for a spot in the postseason bullpen, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
Roberts ruled out Stripling as a postseason starter, said he will pitch out of the bullpen, which is why he was scratched from tonight’s start and will instead pitch the bulk of innings after opener Caleb Ferguson.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) September 17, 2019
Stripling receiving an early nod for the NL Division Series roster will mark his return to the playoffs after he was left on the outside sitting in as the Dodgers made another run to the World Series last year.
Although Stripling was an All-Star for the first time in his career, he battled nagging injuries and fatigue down the stretch of 2018, which limited his effectiveness. He appeared in NLDS and NL Championship Series games in 2016, and was on the Dodgers’ roster for the NLCS and World Series in 2017. Stripling owns a 4.91 ERA in 10 career postseason games.
With Roberts tipping his hand on Stripling, the Dodgers’ bullpen has seemingly taken shape. It presumably will also include Pedro Baez, Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, Adam Kolarek and Kenta Maeda.
Dependent on which direction the Dodgers elect to go in for a Game 4 starter and how many relievers they will carry for the NLDS, one of Caleb Ferguson, Gonsolin, May and Urias could be vying for a spot in the bullpen as well.