Like most baseball-loving viewers on Tuesday, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts had a question as he watched the final innings of the American League wild-card game: Where, exactly, was Baltimore's All-Star closer Zach Britton?
Roberts expected to see him in the ninth inning. But Britton did not pitch the ninth, he did not pitch the 10th, and Britton watched from the bullpen as Toronto slugger Edwin Encarnacion pounded a game-winning home run.
Because the score was tied and the Orioles were on the road, Manager Buck Showalter was reticent to use his closer. Roberts sympathized with Showalter over the criticism he received, even if Roberts would not necessarily have done the same thing.
"If you had to list the managers that manage the pen the best, he would be on a lot of people's lists, as top three or whatever," Roberts said. "One game passes, and he somehow finds a way to the bottom. He obviously has his reasons. I've got a ton of respect for him."
Roberts indicated before a workout on Wednesday at Nationals Park that he would not necessarily adhere to the sport's orthodoxy. He said he was willing to use closer Kenley Jansen if the score was tied in the ninth.
Roberts is also willing to use Jansen for multiple-inning stints. Jansen made five saves in the regular season that lasted longer than three outs.
"I know Kenley is open to whatever's best for the team," Roberts said. "Depending on the game situation, in the postseason, managers are typically a little more aggressive. That's part of the reason I wanted to use him in one-plus situations all year, so there's some familiarity with it."
Andrew Toles is cleared for batting practice
Rookie outfielder Andrew Toles has been nursing a sore left wrist for the last week, but he was allowed to take batting practice on Wednesday evening. The team is hopeful he can be ready for Game 1, when Toles could start against right-handed starter Max Scherzer.
"Feels good," Toles said when asked about his wrist.
Expecting his best
The Dodgers do not know exactly what is ailing Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, but they have some ideas. Roberts referenced injuries to both Harper's left thumb and his right shoulder that affect him both at the plate and in the field.
The condition of Harper's throwing arm might be exploitable for the Dodgers on the bases. Harper is blessed with a powerful, accurate arm, but there are questions about its current effectiveness.
Harper sat out four games last week because of a jammed thumb, and he reportedly has been playing through a shoulder injury. The Nationals have denied Harper has a shoulder injury, although Roberts appeared to indicate the Dodgers believe he might have one.
"We really don't know how much it's affecting his throwing," Roberts said. "How much the thumb affects his swing. For us, for preparation, it's more about expecting to see the best Harper, and we'll see what happens."