Wood was an All-Star for the first time in 2017, and finished the year 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA in 27 games, including 25 starts, with 151 strikeouts in 152⅓ innings. But in the second half he posted a 3.89 ERA with 13 home runs allowed in 12 starts, after giving just two home runs before the break.
That led to speculation that Wood, who pitched in the bullpen during last year’s playoffs, and who has appeared in 37 games in relief in his career, might be better utilized in relief multiple times in a series rather than just one start.
“I think it was clear that Alex earned the opportunity to start a playoff game,” Roberts said.
The ripple effect of Wood starting Game 4 is two-fold.
For one, it means Clayton Kershaw won’t start on three days rest in this series, something he has done in each of the last four NL Division Series.
“Usually how that stuff happens is when Game 4 rolls around, things change. But it really sounds like that's not going to happen this year,” Kershaw said. “But I'll worry about that when it happens. But for now, I'm just going to try to get them out tomorrow [in Game 1].”
Roberts on Thursday doubled down on his claim that Kershaw wouldn’t pitch on short rest in the 2017 NLDS.
”Set in stone. If there is a Game 4, Alex Wood will start Game 4,” Roberts said. “Guys don't pitch on short rest in the postseason. So Clayton is certainly an outlier and to not have to tax him more than he's been taxed in the past, I think that it speaks to what we have on our starting staff. I feel confident, very confident with Alex taking the ball in the potential Game 4.”
Wood in the rotation means no spot on the NLDS roster for Hyun-jin Ryu, who has only made one relief appearance in his career. Roberts said the decision was made before Ryu allowed three home runs and recorded only six outs in his final regular season start, last Friday against the Rockies at Coors Field.
“For Ryu to finish the season in Colorado, and it was more of just a continue to have him pitch, stay built up unless, if something happened by way of injury to keep him going,” Roberts said. “But I think it also boiled down to number one, Alex earned the opportunity, and number two, Ryu's being uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the bullpen role.”
Ryu will remain with the team during the postseason and will continue to throw on the side, staying ready on an unofficial taxi squad just in case he is needed.
Wood is 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA this season against the Diamondbacks, with 23 strikeouts and four walks in 21 innings.
Roberts added that 24 of the 25 players have been chosen for the NLDS roster, with the Dodgers down to one final decision. The 25th man is between a position player and a relief pitcher.
“To try to forecast how each game is going to play out is impossible,” Roberts said. “But when you kind of weigh the combination and figure out who could impact our team that game or multiple games, that's kind of where we're at, our little quandary.
“We have good debates.”
NLDS rosters are due by 10 a.m. PT on Friday.