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Dave Roberts won’t start Clayton Kershaw on short rest in Game 4

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When Saturday rolls around, it won’t matter if the Dodgers are on the brink of clinching a championship or need their best starter to fend off a sweep: Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts won’t start Clayton Kershaw on short rest in Game 4. It’s a strategy that has worked well for the team and its ace so far this postseason. Kershaw hasn’t needed to take the mound on short rest or been forced to pitch out of the bullpen, as was so often the case during his last several trips through the playoffs.

The result? A 2-0 record and 3.63 ERA in three starts, including six innings of three-hit, five-strikeout ball in Game 5 of the NLCS. Granted, his lone quality start coincided with an explosive performance from the offense as they locked down the pennant with an 11-1 win over the Cubs. The southpaw has also been backed by an airtight bullpen — through 28 2/3 postseason innings, they’ve given up a collective three earned runs and haven’t allowed so much as an extra base hit since Albert Almora Jr. pinch-hit a ground-rule double into the ivy during Game 3 of the Championship Series.

All the parts appear to be working smoothly for the Dodgers, and Roberts doesn’t seem likely to tamper with a tried-and-true formula just yet. That’s not to say he won’t go back on his word — or, like A.J. Hinch did with Justin Verlander and his cadre of pitchers prior to Game 7 of the ALCS, call for an “all hands on deck” approach if the Dodgers’ position starts to look precarious. But for now, it’s easy to believe him. Kershaw has proven more than capable of reversing his postseason blues this October, and should the Dodgers continue to dominate on the road (as they’ll need to do for a sweep), this may all be a moot point come Saturday.

Maddon: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again for Angels this year

Shohei Ohtani
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Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again this season for the Los Angeles Angels after straining his right forearm in his second start, manager Joe Maddon says.

Ohtani likely will return to the Angels’ lineup as their designated hitter this week, Maddon said Tuesday night before the club opened a road series against the Seattle Mariners.

The Angels’ stance on Ohtani is unsurprising after the club announced he had strained the flexor pronator mass near the elbow of his pitching arm. The two-way star’s recovery from the strain requires him to abstain from throwing for four to six weeks, which covers most of the shortened 2020 season.

“I’m not anticipating him pitching at all this year,” Maddon said. “Any kind of throwing program is going to be very conservative.”

Ohtani was injured Sunday in the second inning of his second start since returning to the mound following Tommy John surgery in late 2018. Ohtani issued five walks during the 42-pitch inning against the Houston Astros, with his velocity dropping later in the frame.

The arm injury is another obstacle in Ohtani’s path to becoming the majors’ first true two-way player in decades. He made 10 mound starts as a rookie in 2018 before injuring his elbow, but he served as the Angels’ regular designated hitter last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani has pitched in only three games since June 2018, but the Angels still believe in Ohtani’s ability to be a two-way player, Maddon said.

“I’m seeing that he can,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to get past the arm maladies and figure that out. But I’ve seen it. He’s just such a high-end arm, and we’ve seen what he can do in the batter’s box. Now maybe it might get to the point where he may choose to do one thing over the other and express that to us. I know he likes to hit. In my mind’s eye, he’s still going to be able to do this.”

The veteran manager believes Ohtani will benefit from a full spring training and a normal season. Ohtani wasn’t throwing at full strength for a starter when the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training in March because he wasn’t expected to pitch until May as he returned from surgery.

“Going into a regular season with a normal number of starts and all the things that permit guys to be ready for a year, that’s what we need to see is some normalcy before you make that kind of determination,” Maddon said.

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