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Roberts mum on Plan B for Opening Day starter

@kengurnick
March 7, 2019

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- All eyes were on Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler on Wednesday, as the former continued his recovery from shoulder inflammation with another spirited throwing session, while the latter threw his third bullpen session of Spring Training. The calendar says Kershaw is unlikely to be ready to make

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- All eyes were on Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler on Wednesday, as the former continued his recovery from shoulder inflammation with another spirited throwing session, while the latter threw his third bullpen session of Spring Training.

The calendar says Kershaw is unlikely to be ready to make his ninth consecutive Opening Day start, even though he is ramping up in intensity, but manager Dave Roberts wouldn’t bite when asked for a Plan B.

“I don’t think we’ve made that decision yet,” said Roberts. “[Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt] has mapped out where we need to be. Just trying to keep Clayton in a positive state of mind.”

Kershaw has thrown six of the last seven days.

An unlikely Opening Day replacement would be Buehler. You don’t slow-play a young pitcher the first four weeks of Spring Training, as the Dodgers have done with Buehler, to then rush him to start the first game of the season. Rich Hill seems to be a more likely choice, with Wednesday night’s start against the Indians his third in the Cactus League, compared to none for Buehler.

Buehler threw a bullpen session the first week of camp, then not again until Sunday. Roberts said Buehler would next throw live batting practice, perhaps on Saturday, which would set him up to make his game debut next week.

Hill looks sharp vs. Indians

In Wednesday night’s 6-1 loss to the Indians, Hill looked even more like an Opening Day starter, striking out four in three-plus innings, but he deflected the question.

“I haven’t talked to Dave about that yet. Obviously, that’s up to the staff and we’ll see how that goes,” said Hill.

Closer Kenley Jansen pitched a scoreless inning, his velocity ranging from a low of 88 mph with his cutter to a high of 94 mph with his two-seamer. Yimi Garcia pitched around a pair of singles in a scoreless inning, and Caleb Ferguson allowed a home run with three strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings.

Enrique Hernandez doubled in the lone Dodgers run and Brad Miller made his Dodgers debut with a pinch-hit single and a strikeout. Joc Pederson’s slump continued; he’s 1-for-17 after an 0-for-3 night. Joe Kelly, originally scheduled to pitch in the game, was pushed back until Thursday.

Worth noting

• After Wednesday night's game, the Dodgers optioned left-handed pitcher Adam McCreery and reassigned left-handed pitcher Josh Smoker and right-handed pitchers Joe Broussard, Daniel Corcino and Jesen Therrien to Minor League camp.

• Catcher Russell Martin remains day to day with a sore lower back. Roberts said it hadn’t been decided whether Martin would return this weekend in a big league game or on the Minor League side. He’s been out since Feb. 27 after overdoing it in the batting cage, but is able to catch bullpen sessions.

• Corey Seager was out ill on Wednesday. Roberts said it was unrelated to the shortstop's elbow and hip, both of which Seager is rehabbing after last year’s surgeries. There is no timetable for when Seager will graduate from Minor League games to Major League games.

• The Dodgers will play a “B” game Thursday morning against the White Sox, with Brock Stewart and Dustin May scheduled to pitch.

Up next

Ross Stripling opposes Felix Pena on Thursday when the Dodgers travel to Tempe to play the Angels at 12:10 p.m. PT. Most of the big league bullpen is also scheduled to pitch -- Pedro Baez, Dylan Floro, Josh Fields, Scott Alexander, Tony Cingrani, JT Chargois and Adam McCreery.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.