Dodgers tab Buehler, Kershaw to open NLDS
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on Sunday confirmed that Walker Buehler will start Game 1 and Clayton Kershaw will start Game 2 of the best-of-five National League Division Series against the Padres on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, at Globe Life Field in Texas.
Roberts did not commit beyond that and left open the possibility that a bulk-innings reliever would piggyback with Buehler to limit irritation to the right-hander’s blister on the index finger of his pitching hand. In Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series against the Brewers, Buehler went four innings and 73 pitches and was followed by three scoreless innings from left-hander Julio Urías, who was credited with the win.
“I just don’t know until I know,” Roberts said. “I think Walker’s finger is in a great place. We’ll keep an eye on it each inning, and he’ll probably be upset when the time comes. Again, we’re trying to win this start and the next series, as well, to have him pitch.”
If Urías pitches in Game 1, Tony Gonsolin probably would start Game 3 and Dustin May would start Game 4, if necessary. Urías likely would be available to pitch multiple innings in a Game 5. There will be no off-days during the series.
Flexibility with Jansen
They had a conversation on Saturday, and Roberts said closer Kenley Jansen is open to being used earlier than the ninth inning. Jansen saved Game 1 vs. Milwaukee, but his cutter velocity was erratic. Roberts used rookie Brusdar Graterol to close Game 2 while Jansen watched from the bullpen.
Jansen threw to hitters during a Dodgers workout Saturday.
“I thought yesterday he threw the baseball really well,” said Roberts. “Like I said the other day, he’s our closer. But there’s still opportunities that I might need him in a different inning. He’s on board with whatever helps us win baseball games. It’s a title, but in practice there are certain innings in certain parts of the lineup I think he’s the best option. So, we’ll proceed that way.”
Loosely translated, Dodgers management would prefer not to have one ninth-inning closer but to manage all games based on matchups. Expect more of that going forward.
“I think putting ourselves in that situation where I can’t use him when I feel he’s the best option isn’t the best decision for the Dodgers right now,” Roberts said.
With the neutral-site format, although the Dodgers earned home-field advantage and will bat last in the first two games, Roberts has taken over the clubhouse office of his former third-base coach, Rangers manager Chris Woodward.
"Nothing against my office at Dodger Stadium, but I feel like George Jefferson. I've moved on up," Roberts said of the state-of-the-art facility. “This office is unbelievable; this facility is unbelievable.”
Roberts said Woodward left him a good-luck note. Roberts said he left Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin, who has taken over Roberts’ Dodger Stadium clubhouse office, fine wine and spirits.
“What’s mine is theirs,” he said.
Per COVID-19 protocols, the Dodgers and Padres are staying at the same hotel, which Roberts said was “different sharing the same space.”
• Roberts said he remains committed to keeping first baseman Max Muncy in the middle of the Dodgers’ lineup, despite Muncy’s season-long slump. Muncy went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts and two walks in the Wild Card Series.
“He’ll be in the middle of our lineup,” Roberts said. “I still think the first game, taking a couple of walks. The second game, I think he took some really good swings, didn’t make contact. But I feel he’s seeing the baseball considerably better. I like where he’s at.”
• Right-hander Dylan Floro, left off the Wild Card Series roster after being a key bullpen piece all season, is likely to be the pitcher added to the roster, Roberts indicated. He said other decisions, such as carrying a third catcher in Keibert Ruiz or a baserunning specialist like Terrance Gore, have not been made. Ruiz would seem the most likely, as a third catcher provides protection when Austin Barnes catches Kershaw and Will Smith serves as designated hitter.
• Outfielder Joc Pederson, whose availability for the series was uncertain because of family issues, made the trip.