With pitcher Alex Wood landing on the 10-day disabled list for a second time this season on Tuesday, after a flare up of the SC joint inflammation that sidelined him earlier in the year, the Dodgers have a decision to make with Saturday’s game against the Brewers at Dodger Stadium.
Saturday was Wood’s next scheduled start, so the Dodgers will need to fill in for him at least once through the rotation. Yu Darvish isn’t eligible to return from his DL stint until Sunday, so he is out.
Brock Stewart is up from Triple-A to start Tuesday night, filling in for Darvish. He can’t realistically start again on Saturday since that would only be three days rest.
Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to pitch four innings in likely his only minor league rehab game for Oklahoma City on Saturday, but said Monday that he felt healthy enough to pitch in the majors over a week ago.
The Dodgers have a huge divisional lead so it is unlikely they would push their ace. Manager Dave Roberts said as much on Monday, but then again...
Roberts on Kershaw in LA on Saturday: "Zero chance."— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) August 21, 2017
Q: Just like Game 5 in DC?
DR: "You're never going to let me forget that, are you?"
Roberts reiterated on Tuesday that Kershaw would not be starting in the majors on Saturday.
Dave Roberts on Saturday's starter: "I'm certain it will not be Clayton."— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) August 22, 2017
With Darvish returning to the rotation Sunday, and Kershaw likely back after his one rehab start, the need for a starter this Saturday is likely for a one-time spot start.
If the Dodgers don’t turn to Kershaw, at the major league level they could turn to Ross Stripling and essentially make Saturday a bullpen game. Stripling, who pitched the bottom of the 12th Monday night to earn his second major league save, has been a starter throughout his career before 2017.
The right-hander has worked solely in relief in 2017, but earlier in the season he said he could ramp up to be ready to pitch five innings with a few days notice.
Stripling is an option to start Saturday, Roberts said.— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) August 22, 2017
On the minor league side, there are a few other options.
Fabio Castillo is on the 40-man roster, which makes him the easiest choice to recall from Triple-A. He is currently on the disabled list with Oklahoma City, but is eligible to be activated as early as Thursday.
The 28-year-old right-hander has started 16 games for OKC this season, and has a 4.20 ERA in 20 games in Triple-A, with 81 strikeouts and 30 walks in 79⅓ innings.
The best option might be Wilmer Font, who leads the Pacific Coast League with 170 strikeouts in 128⅓ innings, to go with his 3.58 ERA in 24 starts. His addition would acquire a corresponding move since he is not on the 40-man roster.
But given how well the 27-year-old has pitched this season, coupled with the fact that he’ll be a minor league free agent at season’s end, he was a potential September addition to the Dodgers roster anyway. If the Dodgers were planning to add Font in September, bringing him up a week early doesn’t present too much more of an obstacle, other than that Font can’t be optioned back to the minors, having used his four option seasons in 2011-14.
Font last pitched on Sunday for Oklahoma City, which would line him up to pitch Saturday on five days rest. He pitched in the majors with the Rangers in parts of 2012-13, totaling 3⅓ innings in five relief appearances.
Another minor league option ruled out by Roberts was Walker Buehler, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. The club’s top prospect, Buehler is a starting pitcher long term, but has been pitching out of the bullpen in August, readying for a possible bullpen role down the stretch and, if everything breaks right, for the postseason.
Walker Buehler not an option to start for Dodgers Saturday, Roberts said.— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) August 22, 2017
If @buehlersdayoff does come up with expanded rosters, it will be in a bullpen role. #Dodgers— Alanna Rizzo (@alannarizzo) August 22, 2017
Buehler, who missed nearly all of 2016 after Tommy John surgery, has a 3.47 ERA across three minor league levels this season, with 117 strikeouts and 29 walks in 83 innings. He has allowed five runs on nine hits in his five relief appearances with Triple-A Oklahoma City, with 11 strikeouts and three walks in 7⅔ innings.