Dave Roberts optimistic about Dodgers’ playoff roster despite lingering questions
There’s plenty for Dave Roberts to fret over during the regular season’s final week and a half.
Rookie outfielder Alex Verdugo has been ruled out of the National League Division Series with a banged-up lower back. Third baseman Justin Turner continues to nurse a left ankle sprain that has lingered longer than anticipated. The status of expected No. 4 postseason starting pitcher Rich Hill remains uncertain because of a recent left knee injury.
Yet, Roberts said he doesn’t feel unsettled. Quite the opposite, actually. Asked Wednesday if he’d be comfortable if the playoffs began right now, the Dodgers skipper confidently responded, “Oh yeah.”
Two weeks from the actual start of the postseason, at the helm of a team on pace for 104 wins and close to clinching home-field advantage through at least the National League Championship Series, Roberts isn’t complaining.
The Dodgers understand the important role Dodger Stadium plays in fueling their World Series ambitions. The players feed off the energy and noise.
“Outside of obviously JT’s health, I think it’s more of just putting together the best [25-man roster] against a particular team,” Roberts said. “The position player side, we’re pretty much set for the most part. . . . As far as pitching, you have your three starters. The only thing you’re short of is that potential fourth starter.”
Roberts is optimistic those issues will take care of themselves.
Turner wasn’t in the lineup Wednesday, the ninth game in a row he has missed. A return date hasn’t been set, but Roberts thinks the third baseman will get “more than a couple of games” under his belt before the NLDS begins.
“Today was better than it was yesterday,” Roberts said of Turner’s status. “We’ve taken this much time, so when he does come back, I really want to be confident he can sustain it.”
Hill is a bigger question mark. Last Thursday, in his first appearance since June 19, the 39-year-old left-hander lasted just two-thirds of an inning. The strain in his left forearm that cost him most of his summer had subsided, but a strain in his left knee that bothered him in spring training flared up again.
On Monday, an MRI revealed that scar tissue had broken off from the area in which he suffered a strain of the medial collateral ligament in March. Before Tuesday’s game, he took the mound with a black, bulky brace wrapped around his knee for a 22-pitch bullpen session. Afterward, he told reporters he intends to pitch again this season.
Hill is scheduled to face hitters Friday and could make a start against the San Diego Padres next Tuesday.
“With Rich, I know that he’s so determined,” Roberts said. “For us, it’s get past Friday, get out of that feeling good, and I hope he can make that start on Tuesday.”
If Hill isn’t built up enough to rejoin the playoff rotation, the Dodgers still have other names to choose from. Rookies Tony Gonsolin (the bulk man out of the bullpen in Wednesday’s game) and Dustin May, as well as veteran right-hander Ross Stripling and left-hander Julio Urias, are among the top potential options.
“Each day, each time these guys go out there, we’re going to evaluate them,” Roberts said, adding: “But if we go with our best starters, I think we’re really equipped” for the playoffs.
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