LOS ANGELES -- With passage into the postseason a formality, the Dodgers are juggling their uncertain starting rotation.
For the current series against the Giants, Julio Urías will start on Sunday instead of Walker Buehler, who will be pushed back two days and start Tuesday in Baltimore. Hyun-Jin Ryu, whose spot would have been Wednesday, is being skipped one turn. On Thursday, Rich Hill will return after nearly three months on the injured list.
Despite the juggling and recent inconsistency, manager Dave Roberts said Ryu, Buehler and Clayton Kershaw remain the core of the rotation, not necessarily in that order.
Management has moved up Urias, as he already was viewed as a postseason starting option and this will put him on a regular five-day routine. He returned from a 20-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy on Tuesday with a three-inning start.
“This gives him the best chance to get his pitch mix worked up,” said Roberts.
Buehler is coming off allowing six runs in five innings to the Rockies on Monday night. In his previous start, he threw six scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts in San Diego.
“He says he feels strong,” said Roberts. “Looking at his workload and his stress innings from last year, tight now, to push him back to get him a blow and not do it late, so he can make three starts going into the postseason is best for him and best for us.”
Ryu, whose Cy Young bid has suffered with four consecutive disappointing starts, will get a breather, although Roberts said the left-hander is healthy.
“We’ll skip this start in Baltimore with Hyun-Jin and we’ll figure out when we pencil him back in,” said Roberts. “Right now, to forgo a start in early September probably makes more sense than waiting.”
The 39-year-old Hill, out with a strained flexor tendon since June 20, passed a final exam on Friday, throwing 30 pitches in two innings of a simulated game with teammates Jedd Gyorko and Kris Negron batting. His goal is to earn back his spot as the fourth starter for the postseason, with Kenta Maeda having already been sent to the bullpen.
“The first inning I was excited and Jedd took me out for a bomb. That was nice,” said Hill, laughing. “The second inning felt much more relaxed. Mechanics and timing a little jumpy, but the second inning much better. Just to not have any issues, that’s all I can ask for, I guess.”
Hill acknowledged there is a sense of urgency to be ready for the postseason, but he added that he’s confident he’s ready for a real game. He is likely to pitch only two innings against the Orioles.
• Roberts said rookie Will Smith’s offensive slump is mechanical and he has worked with hitting coaches to clean it up. After a spectacular start that saw Smith bat .329 in his first 25 games, since Aug. 18, Smith is batting .178, lowering his overall average to .273.
“I don’t think it’s body fatigue,” said Roberts. “On the hitting side, there’s a mechanical thing the hitting guys have cleaned up. Even his last swing the other night was a good swing, and I believe in the coming at-bats, it will be better.”
“With the catching thing, he just has to continue to get familiar with our guys,” Roberts said. “The bottom line is, the guys still know they have to make good pitches. Who’s behind the plate, still got to make quality pitches. The more he’s back there, the more comfortable he’s going to get.”
• Barnes, whom Smith replaced, was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday. In a rule quirk, Barnes’ return was delayed because he filled in when Martin went on bereavement leave two weeks ago and then was required to spend 10 days off the roster before being recalled to the Major Leagues.