We already know that there will be an extra Wild Card team in each league and a one-game playoff, perhaps as soon as next season. Craig discussed the issue at length yesterday, by the way. But Buster Olney of ESPN.com hears that there could be another change to the playoff format on the horizon:
Source: Rule that a team cannot play another club from same division in Division Series will most likely be eliminated in new playoff format.
For example: If PHI has best record, and Braves/Nats are No. 4-5 seeds, PHI could play winner of ATL/WASH under new format,in all likelihood.
The goal here is to put the eventual Wild Card winner through the ringer — and most likely use their top starting pitcher — before they face the team who had the best record during the regular season. There will still be times when a division winner has a worse record than a Wild Card team, but I can live with this. The networks probably care about this more than anyone else, but it’s also refreshing to see that MLB isn’t afraid to have the Yankees face the Red Sox in the division series, if need be.
Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.
Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.
Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.