by Cary Osborne
The new Major League playoff structure provided an oddity at Dodger Stadium on Friday — an October game in front of no crowd that didn’t count.
The Dodgers reaped the accolade of having the best major league record and played an intrasquad game while the Padres and Mets exerted maximum energy in Game 1 of their Wild Card series across the country in New York.
This game was played on DodgerVision as the Dodgers played their game at a more relaxed pace to stay sharp and assess for their first post-season game – Game 1 of Tuesday’s National League Division Series against the winner of the Padres-Mets.
The Dodgers have the luxury of time right now to strategize and answer some key questions.
For example, who will be their starter in Game 1? How will the bullpen be constructed and who will remove the most important moments, especially the closest role? And for those like Dustin May and Blake Treinen – who each finished the season on the injured list – what is their status?
The Dodgers’ Game 1 starter next week will be either Julio Urías or Clayton Kershaw. Beyond that, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said there was no decision as to which left-hander will start the Dodgers’ playoff sprint.
“It’s not adversary-driven,” Friedman said. “We feel like we have two exceptionally deserving pitchers who have played a big role in our past success and will be a big part of what we do come October. You can discuss different things. I think part of it will be to be with them and talk. We don’t have to figure that out now. And so we focus more on things that are a bit more time-sensitive. Both are great candidates for Game 1. The other will be very strong and put us in position. Because if we’re lucky enough to get through the DS, there are implications for what it looks like then in the (Championship Series).
Julio Urías has allowed no more than two earned runs in his last 14 starts of the season. Clayton Kershaw allowed seven runs overall in his seven starts after being released from the injured reserve on Sept. 1.
As for the tightest, the last seven games the Dodgers have led or tied in the ninth inning have seen a different pitcher each time. Craig Kimbrel, who was discharged on September 23, was one of those pitchers.
The Dodgers don’t appear to be locked on a pitcher for the ninth inning in the immediate future.
“The fact that we have a lot of really talented pitchers, my sense talking to our guys is that we’re going to compete and put ourselves in the best position in the inning of our bullpen, and there’s going to be somebody really talented that we think we can get those takedowns in the ninth,” Freidman said. “That’s the benefit of having the depth in the bullpen that we feel like we have right now. It might look different night to night It might be different depending on who we’re up against But most importantly we feel like we have a number of guys who can handle right now and who have what it takes to do it.
Blake Treinen, who missed four and a half months with a shoulder injury, was on the active roster for eight days before returning to the injured list on September 10. His status for the NLDS remains to be determined. He will participate in the Dodgers’ intrasquad scrimmage this weekend.
Dustin May pitched a bullpen Friday after pitching to batters Wednesday. May will pitch a few innings on Sunday in a scrimmage.
May went to the IL on Sept. 24 with a lower back tightness. He said Wednesday he felt back to normal.
“I’m ready. I’m ready for whatever I’m called for,” May said on Wednesday.
May returned from Tommy John surgery to make his first start of the year on August 20. He had a 4.50 ERA in six varied starts — for example, there were five no-hitter innings on Sept. 16 and then five earned runs. in four innings on September 21.
If May makes the NLDS roster, the Dodgers believe he can win three to four innings in one outing if he’s efficient.
“When a guy has Tommy John (surgery), the first thing to watch out for is how quickly he can get back to business. And then once you have that in place, execution is usually the last thing to come,” Friedman said. “The good thing about Dustin is his whole career he’s been able to run. And so it’s a typical type of progression backwards. The other day here we thought he had extremely well executed.
Another question mark is infielder/outfielder Chris Taylor, who hasn’t played in the Dodgers’ last five games due to a neck problem. Taylor also battled a neck problem last year before the playoffs.
Taylor hit the cage on Wednesday and threw and felt great. Friedman said Taylor should be able to play in the Dodger’s intrasquad scrimmage this weekend. He didn’t play on Friday.
The Dodgers are confident Taylor will be healthy enough to make the NLDS roster.