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09/29/10 7:12 PM ET

Scratch that: Kershaw won't start, after all

Dodgers change course again, tab rookie Ely for Friday

DENVER -- Try sorting out the Dodgers' starting rotation for the final four games of the season. It sure hasn't been easy for the Dodgers to sort it out.

First, Clayton Kershaw was pitching Wednesday. Then he wasn't pitching anymore this year. Then he was pitching Friday. Now he's not pitching anymore again.

"It is what it is," said Kershaw, although it's hard to tell exactly what it is.

As the Dodgers were leaving Coors Field after sweeping the Rockies on Wednesday with a 7-6 victory, manager Joe Torre's latest decision had rookie John Ely replacing Kershaw on Friday night, with Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly going Saturday night and Sunday, respectively.

Before Wednesday's game, however, Torre said Kershaw would pitch Friday night. That came about 10 hours after he said Kershaw wouldn't pitch again.

Kershaw was originally named to start Wednesday's game against the Rockies, who were still in the race.

"I thought this series was important enough for him to pitch in it," said Torre.

When the Rockies were eliminated by the Dodgers on Tuesday night, Torre called Kershaw at the team hotel and told him he would be shut down instead because he had pitched enough innings this year (Carlos Monasterios took the Wednesday start) and that would allow Hiroki Kuroda to pitch Sunday.

But on Wednesday morning, Torre said that the purpose for starting Kuroda on Sunday was to give him a chance to reach 200 innings (he needs 3 2/3 innings), which Kuroda had earlier said was a personal goal. Instead, Kuroda told Torre it didn't matter to him.

"One of my goals was 200 innings, but at this moment, it's no longer a goal," Kuroda said. "In the beginning of September they told me the game in Colorado would be my last one."

Kershaw is a creature of habit and routine and didn't seem thrilled with the flip-flopping. Tuesday he expected to pitch Wednesday, Tuesday night he was told he wasn't pitching again this year, Wednesday morning he was told he's pitching Friday night.

"They asked if I wanted to pitch and I said sure," Kershaw said before the game. "Mentally, I just have to get back in the swing of things. It's just all mental now. The extra day helps, and I'm big on routine, which helps, too."

After the game, Kershaw shrugged off the indecision as something a professional must adjust to.

"The only part that's hard is the mental part," he said. "You're shut down, then you get back going. Once I wrap my head around it, I would be fine. It makes you mentally tough to stay focused and know this game changes."

Kershaw (13-10) has 204 1/3 innings and 212 strikeouts. Kershaw has the most strikeouts for a Dodger since Chan Ho Park had 218 in 2001.

With three more strikeouts, Kershaw would have passed Larry Dierker and become the sixth-youngest Major League pitcher to reach 500 (for careers started in 1952 or later). The others: Dwight Gooden, Bert Blyleven, Gary Nolan, Felix Hernandez and Catfish Hunter.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.