It’s probably still more of a hope than a guarantee at this point, but the Dodgers’ playoff rotation plans appear to be finally coming into focus.
Before their 4-3 walk-off loss against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, manager Dave Roberts said the team would like to have a four-man rotation when its postseason begins in the National League Division Series on Oct. 11.
Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw seem like locks for Game 1 and 2. Tyler Anderson will start a game, as well, Roberts reiterated Tuesday, before the left-hander pitched six strong innings at Petco Park.
The fourth spot is somewhat up in the air. However, if all goes well in the next couple of weeks, Roberts said it’s possible that Tony Gonsolin will be back from a forearm strain and ready to handle a start.
“That’s the hope,” Roberts said.
It seemed to get brighter Tuesday night.
While the Dodgers opened their series in San Diego — losing the game in the 10th inning after Craig Kimbrel walked Jorge Alfaro with the bases loaded — Gonsolin pitched two scoreless innings in a rehab start with triple-A Oklahoma City. He gave up just one hit in the 27-pitch outing, averaged 92.6 mph with his fastball and used all four pitches in his arsenal. He also did some extra work in the bullpen afterward.
As long as he bounces back well in the next couple of days, Gonsolin’s next outing could be back with the Dodgers, who are hopeful of slotting him back into the rotation against the Colorado Rockies next week for what would be his first big league appearance since suffering his forearm strain a month ago.
If Gonsolin stays on track, he could be stretched back out to four innings by the time the NLDS starts.
Of course, that’s all contingent on the Dodgers getting good health luck over the next few weeks, something they haven’t experienced much of over the latter half of the season.
Walker Buehler was lost to Tommy John surgery. Blake Treinen is battling lingering shoulder issues that have left his postseason availability in doubt (the right-hander resumed playing catch Tuesday, but acknowledged he doesn’t know if he’ll be ready for the NLDS).
And Dustin May remains uncertain with a lower back strain, though Roberts said he’s closer to returning than Treinen.
They’ve gotten some bullpen arms back of late — Brusdar Graterol, Tommy Kahnle, David Price (who was activated Tuesday) and Yency Almonte (who rejoined the team Tuesday and will be activated Wednesday). Andrew Heaney could be added to that mix, too, with Roberts indicating that Heaney could follow an opener in his scheduled outing Thursday as a potential dry run for playoff relief duty.
But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Dodgers’ biggest linchpin on the mound in October will be their starting rotation — which in a best-case scenario could provide ample length that sets up a straightforward bullpen plan.
“Once we get to the end of the season, and we see where we're at, then I think that exercise would be a lot more productive,” Roberts said when asked if the team is already creating contingency plans based on who might be available on the mound.
He added: “The way things have gone this year, it's sort of a pointless exercise [right now].”
While they wait on their injury situation to resolve itself, the Dodgers know they will be relying on Anderson in a much bigger way than they ever imagined when they signed the journeyman left-hander to a one-year, $8-million contract in spring training.
On Tuesday, he looked up to the task.
After giving up two runs during a first inning in which his infield failed to turn a potential inning-ending double play, the crafty veteran found a groove against a potential playoff foe.
Between the second and sixth innings, he retired the last 15 batters he faced. He probably could have worked deeper into the game, but was replaced at the start of the seventh after 71 pitches.
He remained fifth among qualified National League pitchers in earned-run average, as well, concluding the night with a 2.54 mark over a team-high 173 2/3 innings.
“If you look at what he does on a consistent basis, and the body of work he’s produced this season,”
assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness said, “it’d be hard to tell him you’re not starting a [playoff] game.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.