On the eve of the first game of the National League division series, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced Alex Wood as the team’s starter for Game 4 — if a fourth game is required, and if the Dodgers decide against using Game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw on short rest.
In years past, the Dodgers have insisted they will not use Kershaw on three days of rest, only to call upon him to do so in the first round. Roberts insisted that 2017 will be different, thanks to the team’s confidence in Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Wood.
Wood is “set in stone,” for Game 4, Roberts said. “If there is a Game 4, Alex Wood will start Game 4. Clayton won’t go on short rest. When you acquire a guy like Yu Darvish, and you have Alex Wood have the season that he’s had, that’s why you do things like that.”
Wood was an All-Star in the first half, with a 1.67 earned-run average and only two homers given up. He looked less formidable in the second half, with a 3.89 ERA and 13 homers surrendered. The Dodgers considered moving Wood to the bullpen and using Hyun-Jin Ryu as the fourth starter. Instead, Ryu will not be on the roster because of his lack of comfort working as a reliever.
Ryu will remain with the team as a member of its taxi squad.
Kershaw threw on short rest on two occasions in the 2016 playoffs, not including a relief appearance in the fifth game of the NLDS against Washington. He often prepares to be available if his team needs him. He declined to reveal his intentions for this October.
“The most important thing for me is just to focus on tomorrow,” Kershaw said. “Usually how that stuff happens is when Game 4 rolls around, things change. But it really sounds like that’s not going to happen this year.”
Kershaw relies on experience
Kershaw will start Game 1 of the first round for the fifth year in a row for the Dodgers. He has a 4.55 ERA in 18 playoff appearances, dating to 2009.
“I know what to expect, I guess, which is always a good thing,” Kershaw said. “But other than that, I think every situation is different and every year is a little bit unique as far as who we face and how our team sizes up.
“But I’m thankful for another opportunity. It doesn’t happen often where your team wins five [division titles] in a row. It doesn’t happen where you’re getting to the playoffs that often. I don’t feel like I take it for granted, but definitely not trying to do that this year, either.”
Roberts said the Dodgers are still debating on the 25th member of the roster, trying to choose between a position player and a reliever. The rosters are due on Friday morning.