LOS ANGELES--Would the Los Angeles Dodgers really risk an end to their season without letting Clayton Kershaw pitch one more time?
Kershaw threw a bullpen session Saturday at Dodger Stadium, keeping open the possibility of him starting Monday in Game 4 of their National League division series against the Atlanta Braves if the Dodgers lose Game 3 on Sunday. Kershaw usually likes to throw a bullpen session three days before he starts, so he probably would have waited until Sunday if he were locked into Game 5.
The Dodgers and Braves are tied, 1-1, in the best-of-five series.
Kershaw never has started on short rest, but he has told club officials he is willing to do so in Game 4. If the Dodgers lose Game 3 and face elimination, they could go with Kershaw on short rest in Game 4, with the hope of getting to Zack Greinke on regular rest in Game 5.
Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez said unequivocally that Freddy Garcia would start Game 4 for Atlanta, win or lose in Game 3. Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said Ricky Nolasco would start Game 4 but left the door ajar for Kershaw.
"We shouldn't say we haven't thought about it, because you're always going to think about everything," Mattingly said. "Right now, we're scheduled with Ricky, and that's the way we're going to go."
Kershaw, a strong candidate for the NL Cy Young Award, pitched seven innings in the Dodgers' Game 1 victory, giving up one run and three hits with 12 strikeouts. Nolasco, who has not started since Sept. 25, gave up 19 runs over 12 innings in his three most recent starts.
The Dodgers were worried enough about a possible injury to Hyun-Jin Ryu that their head physician and vice president of medical services watched Ryu throw his bullpen session Friday.
Ryu was cleared for his start Sunday. The Dodgers kept mum on what triggered their concern, so much so that one club official responded to that question by asking, "Have they made a statement?"
Two club officials confirmed there was concern about Ryu's status, but the Dodgers made no statement of explanation. Ryu said he felt "really good," and Mattingly said the Dodgers had "no concerns" about letting Ryu start.
Asked why Dodgers physician Neal ElAttrache watched Ryu's bullpen session, Mattingly said with a smirk, "I think Neal just loves being in the bullpen down there in Atlanta."
The Dodgers could be in big trouble if Ryu is forced to make an early exit. They left Edinson Volquez, their fifth starter in September, off the playoff roster.
Chris Capuano, on the playoff roster to retire left-handers, has not started since Aug. 31. None of the other relievers has pitched more than two innings in any game since the All-Star break.
Mattingly brushed aside a question about whether he had any regrets about his failed strategies during the seventh inning of Game 2. "I really don't feel like going through the game again. ... I don't look at it like we did anything crazy," he said. ... Andre Ethier, hobbled by pain above his left ankle, did not run on the field during Saturday's workout and is likely to remain limited to pinch-hitting through the series. "It would be a great surprise if we get him to be in the outfield this series," Mattingly said. ... Sandy Koufax is expected to attend the games Sunday and Monday. ... Fernando Valenzuela is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Sunday.
(Staff writer Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report.)
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