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Dodgers weighing options for Friday start

Clayton Kershaw’s bullpen session Tuesday in Houston could determine his readiness for Friday in Phoenix

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Walker Buehler makes his season debut on Tuesday night in the opener against the Astros, though it likely won’t be a long start for the right-hander.

The longest Buehler has pitched in any one inning since summer camp restarted was four innings last Wednesday on a voluntary workout day before Opening Day, and manager Dave Roberts on Tuesday from Houston said Buehler’s maximum for this game is likely five innings and/or 75 pitches.

“You’ve got to layer in the emotion of a regular season game, you know, the stress of an inning, potentially,” Roberts said. “I think that if you look at it, five and 75, but I think that there’s a little bit more to where he ultimately ends up.”

In addition to Buehler’s start tonight, eyes are on Friday, which is currently vacant after Alex Wood was on placed on the injured list earlier Tuesday. Wood did not make the trip with the team.

It sounds like the preferred choice to fill that slot is Clayton Kershaw, but that will depend how he comes out of his bullpen session later on Tuesday.

“I think that we’re still trying to just make sure that he gets through this today, and then we’ll make a decision,” Roberts said. “But [Friday] is a possibility.”

Dodgers-Astros lineups

Pos Dodgers Pos Astros
Pos Dodgers Pos Astros
RF Betts CF Springer
1B Muncy (L) 2B Altuve
3B Turner 3B Bregman
CF Bellinger (L) LF Brantley (L)
DH Taylor 1B Gurriel
SS Seager (L) SS Correa
LF Pollock RF Reddick (L)
2B Hernández DH Tucker (L)
C Smith C Maldonado
Walker Buehler vs. Framber Valdéz on the mound

With Monday’s off day the Dodgers could simply move the rest of the rotation up, but Roberts said he preferred to keep Julio Urías on five days rest this time through, which means Urías will pitch on Saturday.

Roberts mentioned Tony Gonsolin, Mitchell White, Josiah Gray, and Victor Gonzalez as potential starting candidates, though he was also basically listing every healthy starting pitcher left in the player pool who wasn’t drafted this year. Gray is the only one mentioned by Roberts who isn’t on the 40-man roster. “We’re going to leave it open,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers could also opt for a bullpen game Friday, especially with a 12-man bullpen that currently includes Dennis Santana. Of that group, Gonzalez would be the most convenient addition since he made the trip as part of the taxi squad.

Other taxi squaders on this trip for the Dodgers are catcher Rocky Gale and utility man Zach McKinstry.

Young bullpen

Active rosters have 30 players and bullpens are even larger than normal. Both the Dodgers and Astros are carrying 12 relievers to start this series, for instance. But Houston’s bullpen has very little major league experience, using nine rookies at the moment. Cy Sneed (21⅓ innings) and Bryan Abreu (8⅔ innings) are the two rookies who saw major league time in 2019. Five others made their major league debuts over the weekend — Blake Taylor and Enoli Paredes on Friday, Cristian Javier on Saturday, Brandon Bailey on Sunday, and Brandon Bielak on Monday.

Right-hander Nivaldo Rodriguez, who was recalled on Monday, has yet to make his debut. Another right-hander, Andre Scrubb, was called up Tuesday, and has yet to pitch in the majors. Scrubb was drafted by the Dodgers in the eighth round in 2016, and traded to Houston last July for Tyler White.

Those other seven rookies have pitched quite well so far, allowing two runs (one earned) in 13 innings, with 13 strikeouts and only one walk.