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Dodgers have NLDS Game 4 starter Dan Haren at the ready

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Haren might start Game 4, he might pitch in long relief in Game 3, or he might not pitch at all in the NLDS.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers head into Monday knowing they will play two games in St. Louis. There are two listed starting pitchers for Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS against the Cardinals, but far less clarity of who might get the bulk of the next 18 innings.

Hyun-jin Ryu is slated to start Game 3, free of the shoulder discomfort that caused him to leave a start on Sept. 12 after just one inning.

"I'm thinking that there's very little, almost zero percent chance that the injury is going to come back tomorrow. I'm not even thinking about it. I don't think it's good for my psyche to think that way," Ryu told reporters on Sunday. "I threw a few bullpen sessions and I went 100 percent, I felt great in all those sessions, I don't foresee a reason why I would feel anything tomorrow."

Manager Don Mattingly expressed similar faith in Ryu, who also missed over three weeks in April and May before returning with no minor league rehab starts to strike out nine in six solid innings in his first time back on the mound. But at the same time, the Dodgers have to remain prepared, especially since the last time Ryu lasted past the first inning in a start was Sept. 6, one month ago Monday.

That means Dan Haren, the scheduled starter for Game 4 on Tuesday, will be ready to pitch on Monday if needed.

"We don't think it's going to happen. But just because of what happened in San Francisco, after one inning, and 20‑something pitches, we've got to be prepared for that. So Danny is going to prepare for that to start tomorrow just like Hyun‑Jin is," Matingly said. "He's not going to go out and throw and do the long toss and all of that. Mentally he's going to be ready to pitch tomorrow.

"If it gets deeper in the game, then we would try to put it together with the bullpen.  We wouldn't try to drag Danny into that."

If Haren isn't needed for Game 3, he is scheduled for Game 4, but even that is in doubt because of the two off days in the schedule provided by the best-of-five NLDS.

The Dodgers could, like they did in 2013 against the Braves, opt to use Clayton Kershaw on three days rest in Game 4, with Zack Greinke set to pitch on full rest in a potential Game 5. Kershaw threw on Sunday to stay loose, but Mattingly was noncommittal.

"We're not making any commitment to Game 4 at this point besides Danny Haren. We're talking about a number of options," Mattingly said. "What happens if ‑‑ then is it Clayton or possibly Carlos Frias or somebody else? Again, we've got to make that decision depending on what goes on."

When asked if Haren pitching in Game 3 was the only way Kershaw would start Game 4 Mattingly said, "I didn't say that."

Mattingly was also asked if Monday's result would affect his Game 4 starter decision.

"Win/loss won't have anything to do with it," he said.

As a reminder, the Dodgers in the 2013 NLDS insisted that Ricky Nolasco would start Game 4 until only a few hours before game time, when Kershaw was announced.

The difference this year could be a stronger faith in the No. 4 starer. Nolasco stabilized the Dodgers rotation for the final three months of the season but was terrible over the final three weeks of the season, allowing 19 runs on 25 hits in 13 innings.

Haren had his ups and downs in 2014, but finished his year with a 2.43 ERA over his final 10 starts, with 50 strikeouts and eight walks in 59 innings.

As part of the general playoff interview schedule, the scheduled Game 4 starters will meet the media on Monday before Game 3 in St. Louis. Expect Haren in that interview for the Dodgers, but don't expect that to be a confirmation that he'll pitch on Tuesday.

We might not know until a few hours before Game 4. But let's get through Game 3 first.

Time switch

With both American League Division Series ending in sweeps on Sunday, the National League is alone on the national baseball stage for a few days. For the Dodgers and Cardinals, that means Monday's Game 3 will now start at 6:07 p.m. PT, 30 minutes earlier than originally planned.