While thinking about whether or not the Dodgers should make any roster moves between rounds as they prepare for the NLCS, I found this note from Bill Shaikin interesting:
The Dodgers are hopeful that Andre Ethier can return to center field during the NLCS. He has not played the field since Sept. 13 because of a condition similar to shin splints above his left ankle. If he can run well enough to play the field, then the Dodgers probably do not need to keep Dee Gordon on the roster. Gordon made one appearance in the NLDS, as a pinch-runner, and he was caught stealing.
I might argue that Gordon’s speed is still worth keeping around — in fact, I did, even before we knew that Ethier & Matt Kemp would be unavailable — but it’s a conversation worth having. My feeling is that it’s a huge risk even if Ethier deems himself ready to go, since he still won’t have played center field for an entire month. That makes it far from a given that he can hold up over the full series, and if he has to return to pinch-hitting only and Gordon isn’t around to run for him, that makes it a very limited roster for Don Mattingly. (If Ether is injured, they could replace him on the roster mid-series, but that would then make him ineligible for the World Series.)
But there’s another consideration at play here, and that’s that the NLCS is longer and a bit more condensed than the NLDS. If we safely assume no one’s sweeping in four, the first five games are played over six days, with only a Sunday day off between Games 2 and 3. Should the series extend past five games, there’s a second day off on Thursday between Games 5 and 6, so this could be a “seven games in nine days” scenario if it goes all the way.
That creates an argument that perhaps the Dodgers move from 11 pitchers, as they had in the NLDS, to 12, as they had for most of the season. That’s especially likely when Mattingly rarely even used his bench in the NLDS; only Ethier & Michael Young were used as pinch-hitters, with Gordon, Scott Van Slyke, Tim Federowicz, & Nick Punto appearing either only on defense or the bases or not at all.
Between that, the poor outing from Hyun-jin Ryu in Game 3, and the almost complete uncertainty about what you’ll get out of Ricky Nolasco after nearly a month off, there’s a pretty good argument to add a 12th pitcher — likely Edinson Volquez, though some possibility of Carlos Marmol. (No one’s talking to you, Brandon League.) There’s perhaps even a conversation to be had about carrying both Volquez and Marmol rather than the continually struggling Paco Rodriguez, though I don’t expect it to get to that point.
At the moment, I’m split on Gordon or an extra pitcher, largely because I don’t completely know what Ethier’s ankle is going to be like. The rosters don’t need to be in until the morning of Game 1, so we still have a few days to think it over. At least we know this — bring Gordon, or don’t and replace him with a pitcher, but dropping him for Jerry Hairston is absolutely not the right answer.