After sitting out the National League Championship Series because of an injured back, Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager will take part in simulated games at Dodger Stadium this week as the final step to gauge his readiness for the World Series.
"We certainly optimistic," manager Dave Roberts said in a conference call Saturday afternoon. "Corey really doesn't want to be denied."
Seager suffered a sprained lower back Oct. 9 in the final game of the Dodgers' division series sweep over Arizona. He received an epidural injection a day later, but his body did not respond to treatment in time to be ready to play the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS.
A stirring performance by Charlie Culberson, who started three games at shortstop and batted .455, negated Seager's absence, but the Dodgers would eagerly welcome Seager back if healthy.
Seager has been cleared to run the bases and take swings off a tee. He has not faced live pitching since playing the Diamondbacks, when he posted a .467 on-base percentage.
"To simulate that game speed, against an actual live pitcher, will be telling," Roberts said.
If Seager is healthy, the team would consider using him as the designated hitter during the three games played under the American League rules. Because Seager injured his back while sliding, Roberts said, the team was unsure what activities might aggravate his condition.
"We're just trying to get him as healthy as we can, and with the training staff, we'll make that decision," Roberts said. "But, yeah, if he can swing the bat and isn't compromised physically, that makes sense."
The Dodgers followed a familiar drill in setting up their rotation. Clayton Kershaw will start Game 1. Alex Wood will start Game 4. But Roberts indicated the club had not determined how Rich Hill and Yu Darvish would ine up in the second and third games.
Hill started Game 2 in each of the first two series; Darvish started Game 3. Hill has had better results at home in 2017; Darvish has pitched well on the road.
Darvish also spent his entire major league career, before joining the Dodgers in August, in the American League. So the order in which they are used is unlikely to change in the World Series.
Roberts offered a positive report on the health of Kershaw, who missed five weeks during the summer with a lower back strain.
"Physically, Clayton feels good," Roberts said. "Obviously, you saw the emotion after [the clinch]. He'll be ready to go Game 1."