Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy could make Dodgers’ playoff roster as relievers, or starters
On Thursday, Brett Anderson made his first relief appearance in three years. On Friday, Brandon McCarthy made his first relief appearance in nine years.
Are the Dodgers seriously considering these oft-injured pitchers as relievers on their playoff roster?
Manager Dave Roberts insists the answer is yes — and not only as relievers, he said, “but also as a potential fourth starter.”
Clayton Kershaw has started Game 4 of the National League division series on short rest in each of the last three years, and he likely will do so again this year. His arm is 90 innings fresher than it was at this time last year, because he spent two months on the disabled list because of a back injury.
Kershaw is set to start Game 1, with Rich Hill in Game 2 and Kenta Maeda in Game 3. If Kershaw does not start Game 4, rookie Julio Urias likely will do so.
But, for a runaway division winner, the Dodgers’ bullpen is curiously unsettled on the eve of the playoffs. Closer Kenley Jansen, setup men Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez and left-hander Grant Dayton appear to be the only locks for spots in the postseason bullpen.
That leaves probably four spots up for grabs, and long relief would not appear to be a priority if Ross Stripling and/or Alex Wood are included. Roberts conceded the challenge of getting Anderson or McCarthy warmed up quickly.
“These guys are starters, so it takes them longer than a normal reliever would,” Roberts said. “We’ll have to figure out a way to get it done, if that’s the direction we decide to go.”
On Thursday, the Dodgers alerted Anderson when he would pitch, so he had plenty of time to warm up. They also let him start an inning, rather than rush him into the game in the middle of an inning. But Thursday’s game counted for nothing, and a postseason game might not offer the Dodgers the luxury of mapping out their pitching.
Anderson said he thought he could handle a bullpen role. In 2013, he made five relief appearances in an 11-day span for the Oakland Athletics. He said he could get up when the bullpen phone rings, throw 10 warmup pitches and get into the game.
“I don’t think I can do that today after throwing 40 yesterday,” he said Friday, a broad smile on his face. “Going forward, I don’t see any issue with that.”
Left might be right
The Dodgers’ greatest weakness has been exposed so loudly and repeatedly that Roberts has heard plenty about it. The Dodgers cannot hit left-handed pitching.
“There’s been this narrative that I kind of bought into — not looking at the win-loss — that we were completely abysmal,” Roberts said.
The Dodgers entered play Friday ranking last in the major leagues in batting average (.216) and OPS (.634) against left-handers. Even right-handed hitters Justin Turner and Howie Kendrick have hit better against right-handers than left-handers this season.
Yet the Dodgers are 22-21 in games started by opposing left-handers — yes, a winning record.
“The point of baseball is to win games, and to win more than you lose,” Roberts said. “Even against left-handed pitching, we’re still winning more than we’ve lost.
“It’s not even a conversation I have with the players. It’s just kind of, oh wow, I didn’t realize that.”
Turner was nominated by his fellow major leaguers as one of three finalists for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award, in recognition of his “on-field performances and contributions to his community.” Other Dodgers finalists for the players’ union honors: Kershaw as NL outstanding pitcher, Corey Seager as NL outstanding rookie and Hill as NL comeback player.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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