Dodgers Dugout: Here's what to do when Clayton Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez come back

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I’m wondering if the team will wait until after the regular season or after the playoffs to retire Cody Bellinger’s number.

Crowding the lineup

The Dodgers should be getting a couple of key players back soon: Clayton Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez. What to do when they come back? Let’s take a look at possibilities.

Kershaw, who was injured on July 23, will throw off a mound this weekend for the first time since his injury. If that goes well, he will throw a simulated game, then have a rehab start or two in the minors. He says he feels healthy, so if all goes well, he should be back around Aug. 24.

When he returns, he gets slotted in the No. 1 spot in the rotation. The top four starters would be:

Kershaw

Yu Darvish

Alex Wood

Rich Hill

That leaves Kenta Maeda and Hyun-jin Ryu trying for the fifth spot. Of course, the way each has been pitching (Maeda has a 2.26 ERA since June 4 and Ryu has a 2.08 ERA since June 17 and has pitched seven shutout innings in each of his last two starts), you could make an argument thst either should supplant Hill. Then again, Hill was the NL pitcher of the month in July.

Whatever happens, the Dodger rotation should be fine. The big question will be who to leave out for the postseason. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

That leaves Gonzalez, who hasn’t played since June 11. He is currently playing rehab games for triple-A Oklahoma City, where he is hitting .333 with no extra-base hits. What do you do when he comes back?

Option A: You could start playing Gonzalez occasionally, giving Cody Bellinger some days off. This allows Gonzalez to slowly work his way back into the lineup and gives Bellinger some rest, since he has played almost every day since coming up at the end of April. You have to worry a little about him wearing out before the end of the season.

Option B: You could put Gonzalez right into the lineup at first and put Bellinger in left every day, giving Gonzalez ample opportunity to show if he is 100% again. But then what do you do with Chris Taylor?

Option C: You could put Gonzalez at first, Bellinger in left and move Taylor over to center, benching Joc Pederson.

Option D: You could put Gonzalez at first, Bellinger in left and move Taylor to second base, benching Logan Forsythe.

Option E: You could tell Gonzalez you don’t want to disrupt the lineup and have him start rarely and be the main pinch-hitter.

Option F: Forsythe kills left-handed pitching (.325/.462/.494) and can’t hit righties (.195/.314/.226) while Pederson can’t hit lefties (.205/.300/.318) and does much better against righties (.232/.352/.468). So, you could put Gonzalez at first and, against left-handed starters put Bellinger in left and Taylor in center, and against right-handed starters put Bellinger in left and Taylor at second.

And there may be some options I’m not considering.

I’d go with Option F. Gonzalez has earned the right to prove he is back to the Gonzalez of old, and if he is even 90% of the player he was the last couple of seasons, then that is good for the team.

Looking (too far) ahead

A big topic in some of the emails I get, and on talk radio: Will the Dodgers’ season be ruined if they don’t win the World Series?

For those of you thinking about that, why do we need to worry about that now? Can’t you just enjoy the season for what it is, an amazing run by a great team? Do you go to Disneyland and spend all day worrying about how bad the traffic will be when you leave? We have plenty of time to discuss whether the season is or isn’t disappointing after it is over. Right now just enjoy the ride.

Comparison

Now let’s compare this year’s Dodgers team at this point in the season to those with the best records in Dodgers history.

2017: 81-33, .711

1953: 77-37, .675 (finished season 105-49, .682, lost World Series to Yankees)

1942: 79-35, .693 (finished season 104-50, .675, did not make postseason)

1941: 74-40, .649 (finished season 100-54, .649, lost World Series to Yankees)

1955: 77-37, .675 (finished season 98-55, .641, won World Series over Yankees)

1974: 74-40, .649 (finished season 102-60, .630, lost World Series to Oakland)

Ask Ross Porter

Wendy McCall asks: Ross, are there fewer switch hitters and why?

Ross: In the 1990s, Wendy, there was a record average of 27 everyday switch hitters. The last few years, it's been closer to 20. Fewer kids play on the sandlots now where they could practice switch hitting.

Ed Murphy and Charles Mumford ask: Why is Gil Hodges not in the Hall of Fame, and is there any chance left?

Ross: Gil missed by one vote in 1993, failed in the 2015 Golden Era committee vote, and will be up again in 2018. That's his only way in. Hodges was an eight-time All-Star with the Dodgers for whom he played 16 of his 18 seasons. He won three Gold Gloves at first base in the 1950s, and hit four home runs in a 1950 game. Teammates Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella. Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese and Don Drysdale are in the Hall.

Dan Padilla asks: When Sandy Koufax pitched his perfect game in 1965, did he strike out every Cubs hitter in the eighth and ninth innings?

Ross: Good memory, Dan. Sandy fanned Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Byron Browne in the eighth, and Chris Krug, Joey Amalfitano, and Harvey Kuenn in the ninth, winning, 1-0. Loser Bob Hendley pitched a one-hitter and lost on an error.

Chris Rangel asks: Can you explain the process for how batting helmets are selected?

Ross: In 2013, baseball's new collective bargaining agreement required players to wear the new Rawlings S100 Pro Comp batting helmet.

Ross answers reader questions every week. Email me and I will pass your questions on to him.

In case you missed it

Some great stories from my colleagues at The Times this week:

Julio Urias is improving physically and mentally after surgery.

MLB players get to wear nicknames on their jerseys the last weekend of August. Which Dodger is the Silver Fox?

The Dodgers’ Rally Granny has become a viral sensation.

Next series

Friday, 7 p.m. PT, San Diego (Clayton Richard, 5-12, 5.17) at Dodgers (Rich Hill, 8-4, 3.47)

Saturday, 6 p.m. PT, San Diego (Jhoulys Chacin, 11-8, 4.15) at Dodgers (Hyun-jin Ryu, 4-6, 3.53)

Sunday, 1 p.m. PT, San Diego (Luis Perdomo, 6-6, 4.81) at Dodgers (Kenta Maeda, 10-4, 3.69)

Note: Pitchers are subject to change

And finally

The top five plays of the first half for the Dodgers. Click here to watch them.

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston.

Houston.mitchell@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimeshouston

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