WASHINGTON, D.C. —Expedience and efficiency are baseball’s buzzwords for 2023, and the Dodgers are more than willing participants. Can you blame them? After nearly six hours of rain delays through the first two days in the mid-Atlantic, the pitch clock was hardly the prime motivation to keep things moving Sunday when rain started to fall in the fourth inning. More rain, of course, was in the forecast. Rather than a clock, the aim was to finish at least five innings and avoid another afternoon of waiting.
The Nationals Park grounds crew appreciated the sentiment, scurrying between innings to wipe off the bases and exchange rosin bags as they raced against Mother Nature. They umpires held off even in the dumping rain as the fifth inning began before ultimately relenting and suspending play. That proved eventful, too, as a grounds crew member was promptly enveloped by the tarp.
Still, fortune was still in their favor. Sunday provided just a 58-minute delay (running the series total to six hours and 42 minutes). The sun even poked its head out for the final few innings.
This week ended with a notable development in the rotation. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the club will push back Clayton Kershaw’s start from Monday to Friday, though Roberts insisted it had nothing to do with the left shoulder trouble that has impacted his velocity and command.
“He is where he’s at,” Roberts said of Kershaw, having already acknowledged that the left-hander is going to continue to pitch despite clearly not being 100 percent. The Dodgers and Kershaw have not specified what the issue is, but Kershaw’s fastball averaged 88.4 mph in his start in Miami on Tuesday after averaging 89.5 mph the start before. Roberts said giving Kershaw nine days’ rest between starts was more about looking at “when his starts could line up” rather than any physical concerns.
But, Roberts said, “I don’t think it could hurt” for Kershaw to have added rest.
Clayton Kershaw’s start is being pushed to Friday. Gavin Stone will come up and start tomorrow, with Ryan Yarbrough going on paternity.
Dave Roberts said it’s not because of any setback with Kershaw’s shoulder. Just a matter of lining up future starts.
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) September 10, 2023
Los Angeles has already had to deal with plenty of bad news this week as it is. But Mookie Betts returned to the Dodgers lineup Sunday after fouling a ball off his left foot that ultimately required a gamut of testing and left a bone bruise. “Bruises hurt,” Betts said, but he was able to move around well enough to resume his MVP-worthy campaign and settle some fluttering hearts.
Beyond Betts’ situation, Austin Barnes was walloped by Nick Forte’s backswing on Tuesday (and has returned to action). And the club welcomed back J.D. Martinez from a mysterious lower body issue that has caused about as many late scratches as diagnoses. The club examined his back and his adductor as possible causes before a specialist found his “zing” sensation he’d been feeling has been caused by his tailbone impacting a nerve. The Dodgers are optimistic about Martinez’s ability to avoid another flare-up, but it’s something that will surely remain in mind.
The Dodgers also made it officocial Friday that Walker Buehler wouldn’t make it back in 2023 as he continues recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.
Then came Sunday, when David Peralta grimaced after fouling off a pitch in the second inning. The club’s training staff checked out his right hand after he felt a sensation up his arm due to the contact off the end of the bat. Peralta returned to the batter’s box — only to get hit in his left elbow by a fastball two pitches later. He left with contusion, but Roberts said X-rays were negative. Peralta he could be back in the lineup as soon as Monday.
Consider it another potential hurdle cleared, particularly as the Dodgers storm toward a division title that could be wrapped up by week’s end.
“We don’t want to take anything for granted and say ‘OK it’s gonna happen,’” siad Miguel Rojas, who collected four hits. “We need to get it done.”
As it stands, the Dodgers are in a race to get through the end of October unscathed. Their magic number is down to seven. But don’t break out the bubble wrap just yet.
“It’s in there and I’ve got to fight those thoughts every day,” Roberts said. “Things are going to happen. Somebody’s got to play. Certainly there’s a lot of coaches and managers in that spot. But you can’t let that bleed into decision-making. I just don’t believe that.”
“You can’t play like that,” Betts said. “You can’t go about life, living (and) worrying about stuff like that.”
The Dodgers can still take some precautions. They had Ryan Yarbrough start Sunday, days after welcoming his second child at 11:58 am Friday morning. “Some little things like that, you’re never gonna seem to forget,” he said. His outing was in part to allow the rotation to reset. The club values Yarbrough’s versatility, in part because he can ease the burden on a pitching staff gearing up for a nontraditional October.
“We have things pretty well-managed and understood the role everything was gonna take,” Yarbrough said. “So just very glad I was able to be there for all the important things and know they’re in safe hands.”
Yarbrough will spend the next three games on the paternity list as the Dodgers recall Gavin Stone to pitch in Kershaw’s place Monday against the Padres.
The Dodgers could use the chance to exhale.
“I think right now we’re just all emotionally, physically spent and happy to come away with what we did on this road trip and get home and get back to some good weather,” Roberts said.
(Photo of David Peralta: Amber Searls / USA Today)