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Dodgers scramble pitching plans with Clayton Kershaw sidelined

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Kershaw won’t pitch in Games 2 or 3, but could be available later in NLCS

MLB: NLCS-Dodgers Workouts Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Roberts is confident that Clayton Kershaw will pitch in the National League Championship Series. He just doesn’t know when.

Kershaw first felt back spasms during a bullpen session on Saturday. He continued to feel better until Tuesday morning, when he was scratched from his Game 2 start.

“We tried to kick the can down the road as long as we could,” Roberts said Tuesday. “I honestly don’t know what game we plan on starting him. I think to leave that option open for Clayton, when he feels as good as he can, makes the most sense for all of us.”

Roberts said the spasms were unrelated to the lower back soreness that sidelined Kershaw for the first nine games of the season on the injured list.

Tony Gonsolin was supposed to pitch a simulated game on Saturday, but was instead switched to a bullpen session in preparation for a possible start earlier than expected.

Kershaw did some dry work in the bullpen before Tuesday’s game, the usual routine for the day before his start, then later played catch and threw in the bullpen. But Roberts said Kershaw won’t start Game 3.

Roberts wouldn’t commit to any starter for Wednesday when speaking with reporters on Tuesday. With Gonsolin starting Game 2, and Dustin May unavailable on Tuesday after recording five outs on Monday, Julio Urías was the obvious choice to at least throw bulk innings, if not start, Game 3.

If he’s not used in relief in Game 2, that is. “He’s available,” Roberts said of Urías. “We’ll see how it plays out.”

An hour after Roberts’ media session, the Dodgers announced that Urías would start Game 3.

May has been used in short bursts rather than starting this postseason, spreading his innings over as many games as possible rather than just a single start. When asked how his role might change with Kershaw scratched, May said, “Honestly, I have no idea.”

Welcome to the club, Dustin.

“I’m completely comfortable [in the bullpen], I’m completely comfortable as a starter,” May said. “Whatever role the team needs, I’m going to be able to play.”

Kershaw’s availability is unknown, but if he can’t go in Game 4 or 5 the Dodgers will have to essentially have a bullpen game. Even if Kershaw does start Game 4, who starts Game 5 remains in question, especially if they continue to use May in relief rather than start.

Roberts wouldn’t even rule out starting Buehler on three days rest in Game 5, even though he’s never started on short rest and has been dealing with two blisters on his right hand for a month.

“It’s day-to-day. Let’s just get him feeling good,” Roberts said of Buehler. “When the training staff says he’s available to pitch, then I’ll make that decision.”

Right now the Dodgers are taking the Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton approach to the pitching staff. They’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow?