LOS ANGELES -- As the Mets-Padres game played on both video boards, the Dodgers, who are awaiting the winner of that series in the National League Division Series, went through their first of three intrasquad games at Dodger Stadium on Friday.
Leading up to their first postseason series, both manager Dave Roberts and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman have said this feels like the most talented roster they’ve ever been around. It’s hard to argue with 111 wins, and becoming just the fifth team in MLB history to reach that mark.
The Dodgers leaned on their depth all season. With that depth, however, come some difficult decisions in October. Los Angeles has about 30 players who could make it onto the roster. They’ll have to narrow it down to 13 pitchers and 13 position players before 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
It’s a great problem to have if you’re the Dodgers, but a problem, nonetheless. Let’s take a look at three key decisions the Dodgers need to make before Tuesday’s Game 1.
Who goes in Game 1?
With that said, it’s easy to name Urías as your Game 1 starter, right? Not so fast, the Dodgers say.
“We feel like we have two exceptionally deserving pitchers who have been huge parts of our past success and are going to be big parts of what we do this October,” Friedman said. “Both are great candidates for Game 1.”
The two candidates, of course, are Urías and likely future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw, who is 5-0 with a 1.54 ERA in seven starts since returning from his second back injury of the season on Sept. 1.
Friedman said the decision won’t be based on the opponent. Instead, it’ll come down to which pitcher they believe will be better suited to pitch on full days’ rest if the series extends to a decisive Game 5. The Game 2 starter would also be available in Game 5, but on short rest.
Given Kershaw’s back injuries this season, the Dodgers are unlikely to ask him to pitch on short rest, unless absolutely necessary. They’re more comfortable asking Urías to fill in as a reliever, when needed.
The Dodgers have already notified the two left-handers which game they’ll be pitching. They’re just not ready to announce it publicly.
How many of the injured guys make it back?
Treinen faced live hitters on Wednesday and will pitch again on Saturday, according to Roberts. Friedman said Treinen won’t have to prove he can pitch on back-to-back nights, something he hasn’t done much this season. The right-hander will, however, have to show he’s fully healthy. How he feels on Sunday will ultimately tell if he’s ready to return.
May also faced live hitters on Wednesday and threw a bullpen session on Friday. The Dodgers could elect to keep May off the postseason roster and continue building him up for a potential NLCS, but if he feels healthy, it’s likely he’ll be available as a multi-inning option out of the bullpen. Roberts said May feels like he’s past the back injury.
No closer, no problem?
Craig Kimbrel was taken off the ninth inning, marking the first time the Dodgers will enter the postseason without a set closer in a while. Los Angeles believes it will be better situated because it can deploy their best relievers in any high-leverage situation, not just the ninth inning.
For the plan to work, the Dodgers are going to have to execute their roster decisions. Roberts and Friedman said the decisions won’t be based on either the Mets or Padres’ lineups. Instead, it’ll just be which pitchers can take down both left and right-handed hitters. With no days off after Game 2, the Dodgers could also lean on pitchers that are capable of bouncing back quicker.
“We’re trying to figure out, ultimately, who fits best for a five-game series,” Roberts said.