At the end of August, in response to a slew of inquiries about why in the world the Dodgers would try out Edinson Volquez rather than give Stephen Fife another chance, I looked at how awful the previous six weeks or so had been for him, including a disastrous stint in the minors when the Dodgers tried to have him work out of the bullpen.
While Volquez has shown signs of utility as a starter with the Dodgers, Fife was recalled as a reliever and… it hasn’t been pretty. He allowed six of the 11 men he faced to reach base on September 6 in Cincinnati, then made Ricky Nolasco‘s disaster start look even worse against the Giants on Saturday by allowing five earned runs in three innings.
So is it just that he’s not a reliever? Is his shoulder barking again? Something else? We’re about to find out, because Fife gets another shot to start as he’ll be taking Clayton Kershaw‘s spot tomorrow night against the Diamondbacks. As Ken Gurnick reports, this is only about giving Kershaw some extra rest late in a long season:
The club believes Kershaw, who already has thrown a Major League-high 223 innings, needs the extra rest as a precautionary measure, especially with the chance of pitching deep into October. He has allowed two earned runs in each of his last two starts, his most recent coming Friday night against the Giants.
…and really, I’m totally fine with that. As you’d expect, the reaction from many fans is “the division isn’t clinched yet, why are we resting guys, Don Mattingly is the worst, blarp-a-bloo!!” but the problem here is really with the offense. If this team is going to make noise in October, it’s going to be because Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford and friends are all healthy and productive, and whether or not they’re behind Kershaw or Fife really shouldn’t matter at all.
The division is getting clinched either way, so don’t worry about that. We’ve all seen that Kershaw hasn’t been quite himself lately, and with 223 innings already on that arm, the primary focus is making sure he’s at full strength to start Game 1 of the NLDS. As Tony Jackson notes, this also serves the purpose of lining Kershaw up nicely to make that start, too.
Kershaw will instead start on Saturday in San Diego, so after Zack Grienke tonight and Fife tomorrow, Nolasco finishes off the Arizona series on Thursday, and Volquez is likely to face off against his old team against the Padres on Friday.