Playoff foes will face different Dodgers
LA will begin NLDS on road vs. Cubs or NL East club
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers now know they will be a part of the 2008 postseason, but who they play and who will make their playoff roster and rotation remains a mystery.With four games remaining entering Thursday before the start of the playoffs, the Dodgers will stage a mini Spring Training to figure out who should fill out the final spots on their 25-man playoff roster. "We're going to do a lot of stuff in order to give us more information to make up our mind," manager Joe Torre said. Shortstop Rafael Furcal (lower back surgery) and Jeff Kent (left knee surgery) both started Thursday and were expected to play just a few innings as they work their way back from surgeries. Furcal saw his first playing time since May 5 on Wednesday when he struck out and played an inning in the field. Kent recorded a pinch-hit single on Wednesday in his first appearance since Aug. 29. Both players will get a couple of opportunities to play this weekend in San Francisco so the club can determine what the former All-Stars can bring to a potential playoff roster. "I think we have to see where we are with them," Torre said. "I think we have to see what luxuries we can have, in other words how much flexibility we have with the players we are going to take for sure." The news isn't as good with Hong-Chih Kuo, who has pitched once in the last 2 1/2 weeks due to left triceps discomfort. Torre said Kuo is "still not there yet" and thus likely would not be available until the National League Championship Series, if the Dodgers get that far. Takashi Saito, coming back from a torn right elbow ligament, was unavailable Wednesday due to a little tightness in his elbow after pitching consecutive days last weekend, but Torre said he could potentially return to the closer's role for the playoffs even if he cannot pitch back-to-back days. Torre also feels comfortable using Jonathan Broxton in save situations.
The Dodgers have not decided if they will go with 10 or 11 pitchers, but Torre said the club will probably go with 11.As for the starting pitchers, Los Angeles scratched Greg Maddux on Thursday in favor of Eric Stults, pushing Maddux back to Saturday -- on a day Chad Billingsley will also toss a couple of innings -- and Hiroki Kuroda to Sunday. Derek Lowe will start Friday to put him in line to start Game 1 on Wednesday, with Billingsley likely to follow him in Game 2 on Thursday on regular rest from his tuneup on Saturday. Kuroda would likely be in line to start Game 3, but it's murky whether the Dodgers would go with a three-man or four-man rotation and whether Maddux or Clayton Kershaw would start Game 4 if they go that way. A three-man rotation would entail Lowe starting Game 4 on short rest, which he is comfortable doing, and Billingsley throwing a potential Game 5 on regular rest. This decision could be influenced by who the Dodgers draw, Torre said. The early clinch will also allow the Dodgers to rest their regulars, with Torre saying he will ask the veterans what kind of rest they need while also helping some of the younger players figure that out. Russell Martin got Thursday off, with Danny Ardoin doing the catching, and Torre planned to take his regulars out early. By virtue of owning the worst record of any division champion, the Dodgers know they will be starting out on the road, but whether they will begin play in Chicago, Philadelphia or New York is uncertain. If the Brewers pull out the Wild Card, the Dodgers will be headed for a showdown with the Cubs because National League-winning Chicago can not play a Wild Card winner from its own division. The Brewers entered play Thursday tied with the Mets in the Wild Card race. The Dodgers went 2-5 against the Cubs this season, but all five of the losses were by two runs or less in well-pitched games in which Los Angeles could not muster enough offense. Of course, with Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake around, the Dodgers' offense looks much different than it did when those games were played in late May and early June. If an NL East team takes the Wild Card, the Dodgers will play the NL East winner, either the Phillies or the Mets. Philadelphia led the division by 1 1/2 games entering Thursday. The Dodgers and Phillies split a bizarre eight games, each sweeping a four-game set at home in August. The series in Philadelphia marked the start of Los Angeles' eight-game losing streak before the club turned it back on by ripping off an 18-5 streak through Wednesday to win the division. Los Angeles went 3-4 against the Mets, with all those games being played in May and early June. Such a series would make for an interesting story line of Torre returning to New York for the playoffs. The Dodgers' Division Series will start with Games 1 and 2 on Wednesday and Thursday on the road, Games 3 and a possible 4 on Oct. 4 and 5 at Dodger Stadium and a potential Game 5 on Oct. 7 on the road. If their opponent has not been decided by the end of the day Sunday, the Dodgers are planning on flying east to Chicago on Monday and then making further travel arrangements if necessary.
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.