As things currently stand, the Dodgers are planning to send out Hyun-jin Ryu against Adam Wainwright in tomorrow’s Game 3, and Ricky Nolasco in Tuesday’s Game 4 against Lance Lynn. If the series goes beyond that, the Dodger rotation is lined up for Clayton Kershaw in Game 5, Zack Greinke in Game 6, and Ryu again in Game 7.
You may remember that this was the plan in the NLDS, too — Ryu in Game 3, Nolasco in Game 4, Kershaw ready for a possible Game 5. That didn’t happen, of course, because Kershaw came back on short rest to start Game 4 instead. And I’m telling you right now, there’s no way that Nolasco starts Game 4 this time around either.
Yes, that’s despite Don Mattingly saying that “we haven’t talked not even once on using Zack on short rest” and then immediately changing the subject to trying to “regroup”. I assume I don’t need to remind you not to ever, ever trust the statements of baseball officials in public — it was only a few days ago that Rick Honeycutt was flat-out insisting that Kershaw wouldn’t start Game 4 of the NLDS, don’t forget, and Mattingly all but admitted to the press earlier this year that he wasn’t always truthful to them.
That’s especially the case when you look at how Greinke himself replied to Dayn Perry when asked about it:
”I mean, I could probably respond to it [the question], but I might give information out that we might want to keep a secret, so I just won’t respond to that question for that reason.”
Greinke’s not known to be a man who plays games with the media, so you tell me if that sounds like a guy who hasn’t had a talk “not even once” about starting on three days rest.
Unlike Kershaw, Greinke has started on short rest before… sort of. Last year, he actually started three straight games for Milwaukee, but that was more than a little bit of a fluke. Greinke made only 4 pitches on July 7 before being ejected, so the Brewers brought him back the next day; since that was the final game before the All-Star break, he also started their first game back on July 13. In 2007, he spent most of the year in the bullpen, and moved into the rotation in late August, three days after a relief appearance.
The only two times that Greinke made real starts on short rest came in the midst of another playoff run, in 2011. He started the season finale on three days rest as the Brewers tried to secure home field advantage (six innings, two earned runs) and then again in Game 2 over Shaun Marcum against Arizona. That was one of the weirder starts of his career, because he struck out seven and walked none, but also allowed three homers. Part of the decision-making at the time? That Greinke had a low season innings count after missing time due to a broken bone suffered in a freak accident (he’d broken a rib in a basketball game). That doesn’t sound familiar, does it?
It’s fair to remember that Greinke missed much of the spring with right elbow soreness, though that hasn’t been an issue so far as we know this season. Over his last four starts, dating back nearly a month, he’s thrown only 345 pitches, an average of about 86 per. Over the same time frame, Nolasco has thrown 186, but that’s because he hasn’t started in well over two weeks, an entirely separate concern. You really think that Mattingly, still without a contract for 2014, is going to down with Nolasco, if the series is 3-0? Or risk going down 3-1, if they win tomorrow? Not a chance.
Ryu will start tomorrow, of course; he has to. But then starting Greinke in Game 4 allows you to start Kershaw in Game 5, also on short rest. That’s not ideal, of course, but remember that he only threw 72 pitches in Game 2, which is why I didn’t hate the move to lift him nearly as much as everyone else did.
That does, of course, leave you in a bit of a spot for Game 6. Ryu on short rest? Nolasco then? Edinson Volquez? But without ignoring the issue, that’s a problem for later. If you don’t even survive long enough to see Game 6, then it’s not a problem, because right now, it’s far from a guarantee. We’ve already seen Nolasco get pushed aside once. With the season on the line, it’s going to happen again. Believe it.