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Dodgers using an opener before Julio Urías

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Joe Kelly starts Wednesday for LA

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers-Workouts
“Last one there has to start”
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Urías won’t start on Wednesday against the A’s, but he will pitch at some point in relief. The Dodgers will instead start Joe Kelly as an opener, continuing to prepare for a myriad of options during the postseason.

Kelly pitched a third of an inning in relief in Tuesday’s win, throwing six pitches. “He’ll throw to three or four hitters, and that will be it,” manager Dave Roberts said on a conference call. “Then he’ll be down, and I expect him to pitch in two games against the Angels.”

Regarding the rotation, it’s as we discussed earlier today. Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler will start the first two playoff games for the Dodgers, in some order, but the rotation order after that hasn’t been determined. For later postseason rounds, all five starters will be needed. In the best-of-3 wild card round, only one game won’t be started by Kershaw or Buehler.

Roberts reiterated Wednesday that the club hasn’t yet decided who will start Game 3, if necessary. He also said multiple times recently that the club is open to using an opener in a game with one of the other three “starters” if the matchups were favorable.

For Urías, Wednesday’s relief outing, though extended, could be a preview of his wild card round role. Or perhaps a game in the later rounds if an opener starts.

“To give Julio an opportunity to pitch out of the pen, and feel it more recently, is a good way to prepare,” Roberts said on a pregame conference call.

The Dodgers did the same with Dustin May last Wednesday, bringing him in to begin the third inning in San Diego, a game in which he pitched 5⅓ innings. Roberts said he wasn’t sure exactly when Urías would enter Wednesday’s game.

Tony Gonsolin also pitched a bulk relief outing once this year, on September 10 in Arizona after May exited earlier with a left foot contusion. His final outing Saturday could conceivably be a relief outing, though that hasn’t yet been decided. “It’s a conversation,” Roberts said.

First-inning struggles

While it might be easy to point to Urías’ 9.00 first-inning ERA as to why he’s not starting Wednesday, it’s not that simple.

Urías has allowed 10 runs in his 10 first innings this season — believe it or not, 11 starters have a worse first-inning ERA this season, with a minimum of five starts — and allowed only nine runs in his other 39 innings. But delaying his entrance doesn’t necessarily solve the issue. Urías’ problem isn’t with the first inning, but rather his first inning.

Roberts has mentioned on multiple occasions he’d like Urías’ pitches to be sharper immediately out of the gate, rather than take an inning or two to settle in. That will be true whether he’s starting or pitching in relief.