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Eye toward NLDS, LA makes rotation tweaks

Buehler, Ryu switch starts to potentially set up postseason order
@kengurnick
September 21, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- With an eye on the postseason, the Dodgers switched starting pitchers for this weekend's series against the Rockies to allow them to open the best-of-five National League Division Series with Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu pitching at home, Clayton Kershaw in Game 3 on the road and

LOS ANGELES -- With an eye on the postseason, the Dodgers switched starting pitchers for this weekend's series against the Rockies to allow them to open the best-of-five National League Division Series with Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu pitching at home, Clayton Kershaw in Game 3 on the road and Buehler available for a Game 5, if necessary.

All of that is speculation, which the Dodgers encourage when they are as vague with their plans as manager Dave Roberts was.

“Things can change,” Roberts said repeatedly.

Kershaw took his regular turn in Friday night's series opener. But instead of Ryu and Buehler following Kershaw this weekend, Roberts switched them, with Buehler on Saturday and Ryu on Sunday.

Roberts said the switch had something to do with the extra time Buehler was given before his most recent start last Sunday, but even that extra time could have been with an eye on the possibility that the right-hander starts twice in the NLDS.

The first postseason game for the Dodgers is Thursday, Oct. 3. That gives Los Angeles almost two weeks to further line up starters in countless scenarios.

But one likely scenario is Ryu pitching at Dodger Stadium, where he’s been untouchable, so he’d be pitching either Game 1 or 2.

Buehler started last year's tiebreaker game at the end of the regular season and Game 7 of the NL Championship Series, so he seems to be the Dodgers' choice to start when the most is on the line. In this year's NLDS, that would be Games 1 and 5. Game 4 is expected to be a bullpen game.

Worth noting

• Roberts said third baseman Justin Turner, out for almost two weeks with a sprained left ankle, will start on Saturday to get a few at-bats. Turner walked as a pinch-hitter in Friday's 12-5 win over the Rockies and was immediately removed for a pinch-runner.

Before Friday night’s game, the Dodgers named Turner the winner of the 14th annual Roy Campanella Award, which is given to the Dodgers player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame catcher.

Turner, 34, becomes the third Dodger to win the award twice, joining three-time Cy Young Award winner Kershaw, who won back-to-back Campanella Awards in 2013 and '14, and Chase Utley, who won in 2016 and '18.

• Roberts announced that left-hander Rich Hill will start Tuesday night at San Diego after the veteran southpaw threw 17 pitches to hitters on Friday and experienced no left knee pain.

Hill pitched with a brace on the knee, which prevented him from completing the first inning in a game last week in Baltimore. He said doctors have concluded that the pain he felt in Baltimore was scar tissue from an earlier injury tearing, and not a re-injury.

Hill said he plans to pitch Tuesday, then again next Sunday and make the postseason roster as a starter. Roberts was less definitive.

“Today was a good day,” Roberts said. “Certainly expect him to make that start against the Padres on Tuesday, two innings, and we’ll go from there. Our goal is his goal: for him to help our ball club. He’s been a big part of what we’ve done this year. If we can run that play out, great. If he can’t build up that endurance or innings, we’ll pivot and we’ll have that conversation.”

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