The strategy has become so popular and pervasive in baseball that it has spawned a catchy nickname, one the Dodgers will invoke when they open a three-game series against first-place Colorado in hitter-friendly Coors Field on Friday night.
Pitching for the Dodgers will be “Johnny Wholestaff,” a group of relievers manager Dave Roberts will employ in place of left-hander Alex Wood, whose start was pushed from Friday to Sunday because of concerns over the cramping in Wood’s left leg.
“It will essentially be a bullpen day,” Roberts said. “We’ll rely on three, four, five different arms to get us through.”
The right arm of rookie Dennis Santana, one of the team’s top pitching prospects, probably will be a factor. Roberts said Santana, who was recalled from triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday, could start.
Roberts could also use one of his left-handed relievers, Tony Cingrani or Scott Alexander, as an “opener” to pitch the first inning, like the Tampa Bay Rays have done with veteran right-hander Sergio Romo four times this season.
The last time the Dodgers faced the Rockies, three of their top four batters in the lineup — Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl and Gerardo Parra — were left-handed.
“It depends what Bud Black is going to do,” Roberts said, referring to the Rockies manager. “We’ll see.”
Whether Santana starts or relieves, he will probably pitch multiple innings. He made 10 starts at double-A Tulsa and Oklahoma City this season.
“It’s not a pitch-count thing — it’s more based on how he’s throwing the baseball,” Roberts said. “He’s built up, he’s been a starter. It’s more get as many outs as you can to help us win a major league game.”
Wood, who threw in the bullpen Thursday, felt cramping in his calf and hamstring in two of his last four starts. With three games in high-altitude Denver, where dehydration is an issue, the Dodgers wanted to give Wood extra rest after last Saturday’s start. Walker Buehler will pitch Saturday, as scheduled.
“It was more preventative health,” Roberts said of Wood. “He’s getting treatment and is feeling good, but we felt if we have the ability to push him back a few days, it’s smart to do that.”
Making his case
Rich Hill, on the disabled list since May 20 because of a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, said he will hold a conference call Friday with representatives from the commissioner’s office and players union to discuss his request to pitch with tape on his finger.
“The chances are probably more than 90% it will be denied, but I think there’s an argument to be made,” Hill said. “Hopefully, it will be listened to.”
Hill has thrown several bullpen sessions and a simulated game with the blister covered.
“It feels great,” Hill said. “Hopefully we’ll get some more answers [Friday].”
Reliever Tom Koehler (right-shoulder strain) threw about 25 pitches off a mound Thursday, his second bullpen session in his rehabilitation from an injury that has sidelined him all season. “He felt encouraged,” Roberts said. “He felt strong.” There is no timetable for his return. … Left fielder Matt Kemp, the team’s best hitter, and shortstop Chris Taylor did not start Thursday. “Matt wants to be in there every day, and that’s great, but understanding and appreciating that it’s a long season, I want him to be at his best,” Roberts said. “We need him for three games in Colorado, so today was good to give Matt a day.” … Ambidextrous reliever Pat Venditte was optioned to triple-A to clear a roster spot for Clayton Kershaw.