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Dodgers-Braves notebook: Kershaw OK'd rotation change

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- The decision to start Clayton Kershaw on Monday night against the Atlanta Braves on three days' rest was done by committee, according to Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.

General manager Ned Colletti and his staff were in on the discussions late Sunday night, but the most important voice was Kershaw's himself. Entering Monday's game, the Dodgers led the Braves two games to one in the best-of-five National League Division Series.

"(The) process was just a matter of waiting things out to see if he kind of responded to everything and how he was feeling, and then really making sure one last time that he was a hundred percent with it," Mattingly said. "Because if it was something that he wasn't a hundred percent with, and really everyone wasn't, we wouldn't do this.

"As we talked to him last night and we basically say, 'Hey, Clay, you've got to be a hundred percent sure. We're not going to take any chances with your career. That's the last thing we'd do.' And he says, 'All the work I do, everything I go through every start, it's for this kind of game.' So he was basically saying, 'This is why I work so hard. This is the game I want.'"

Kershaw, who made 124 pitches in Game 1 on Thursday, never pitched on three days' rest in his career before Monday. The National League ERA champ each of the past three seasons took the place of Los Angeles' fourth starter, Ricky Nolasco.

By pitching Kershaw in Game 4, the Dodgers still had right-hander Zack Greinke available for Game 5 if needed, so Mattingly refused to say he or the club was taking a risk with the 25-year-old left-hander.

"We protect our guys all year long to be able to get them in (the best) position," he said. "I'm not having to push any of these guys to do anything. I'm not going to have to push (shortstop) Hanley (Ramirez) on the field because his leg's a little sore. These guys want to be out there, and they want to do what they're doing. This isn't about us trying to get these guys to do something -- they want to accomplish something."

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Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he never considered pitching his ace, Game 1 starter Kris Medlen, on three days' rest, even after hearing about the Dodgers' decision to go with Kershaw. He is saving Medlen for a potential Game 5. Gonzalez spoke with former Braves manager Bobby Cox, who occasionally threw pitchers such as John Smoltz or Greg Maddux on three days' rest.

"Yeah, we did (talk), actually, even (Monday) morning," Gonzalez said. "It didn't affect my decision. ... We've got to take care of our team. We know our guys and we know how to prepare them and how successful they're going to be in certain situations."

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The last Dodgers starter to pitch a postseason game on three days' rest was Derek Lowe, who started Game 4 of the 2008 NL Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Lowe allowed two runs on five hits but left after five innings and 74 pitches. The Los Angeles bullpen gave up four runs in the eighth inning and lost the game 7-5.
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