Even though just a handful of regular season games remain before the beginning of the postseason, the pitching staff projections for the playoffs seem to be changing for the Dodgers daily, and in some cases, by the hour.
Obviously, if health wasn’t a factor, the optimal choices for the starting rotation and the bullpen would be clear. However, the pitching staff that fans will see in the NLDS opener will depend pretty much on which players are healthy.
In the series finale against the Padres on Thursday, the Dodgers plan on running out Brusdar Graterol as the opener, a role he played during last year’s playoffs when the club was shorthanded on legitimate starters. Graterol will be followed by lefty Andrew Heaney, seemingly preparing him for the long man role he will embrace during the postseason.
As far as the postseason starting rotation goes, what we know for certain is that Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Tyler Anderson are in. The fourth pitcher could be Tony Gonsolin, depending on how he responds in his return from the injured list.
Manager Dave Roberts suggested that Gonsolin’s return to the majors could come on Monday against the Rockies, the fourth game of a six-game series, as Andy alluded to in her story yesterday. The ideal plan is to have Gonsolin throw at least three innings in his first outing back, then perhaps throw upwards of four innings in a starting role by the time the NLDS begins.
If Gonsolin does prove to be healthy, that could mean one less member of the current bullpen makes the postseason roster. The same applies for Dustin May, who is certain to pitch in relief if he shows he’s healthy and effective enough to pitch in the postseason.
Counting Gonsolin and May, plus the inclusion of newly returned Yency Almonte, that could spell disaster for someone like Craig Kimbrel, whose chances of making the postseason roster are dwindling by the day.
Still, the availability of the extra arms is always a good problem to have, especially if they’re 100% healthy. The team has the option of moving players around — the relievers who are included on the NLDS roster can be replaced with healthier or better arms by the time the NLCS rolls around, if the team advances that far.
In a perfect world, Blake Treinen will be healthy enough to throw at some point in the postseason, creating a prime core of himself, Almonte, Evan Phillips and a newly revived Tommy Kahnle, putting about a handful of other pitchers in the bubble category.
With the way things continue to change, there’s not much sense even trying to predict the playoff roster’s pitching staff just yet. Based on the way Gonsolin throws and the progress of May, we should have a better idea by the middle of the Colorado series this weekend.