Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers went into the postseason with their first two starters set for the 2023 National League Division Series in Clayton Kershaw and Bobby Miller taking the ball against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Beyond that, their decision remained unsettled for Game 3 at Chase Field until Lance Lynn was named the starter. Ryan Pepiot was a candidate to start as well, and technically the Dodgers could also have utilized an opener.
Such a strategy is one manager Dave Roberts recently indicated the team could rely on during the postseason.
“I still believe that the opener is still a strategy in the sense of how you can create a different look for that next pitcher coming in, allow him to potentially face some more hitters in a particular game,” Roberts said.
“So it’s always sort of a strategy, but I think that with our varied arms, just kind of putting our thoughts together and how best to prevent runs and how best to use our arms up.”
If the Dodgers use an opener, Roberts named Brusdar Graterol and Caleb Ferguson as the likely options, while also naming Shelby Miller as a potential candidate as well. In the regular season, Ferguson opened seven times, compared to one each from Graterol and Miller.
Although those pitchers have generally been used in high-leverage moments, Roberts believes that same skillset transfers over to being an opener.
“I think it’s the neutrality,” Roberts said. “I think it’s also appreciating the fact that you’re going to face the first three or four top hitters in the lineup that you feel comfortable you can get through that first inning to give some runway to that next guy.”
It’s a more unconventional way of preventing runs and utilizing a pitching staff, but Roberts is confident the strategy can be beneficial to use. He also doesn’t believe the possibility of using an opener multiple times in the same playoff series would lower the effectiveness because they aren’t set on any specific opener and have multiple options as the piggyback pitcher.
“I think in a vacuum, the piggybacking, the opener, works because it’s varied looks to the hitters,” Roberts said. “And then you layer in our guys’ willingness, the neutrality with a lot of the guys that we have behind guys, and then the openers, whoever we choose, I think adds to that as well.”
Graterol’s first appearance in the NLDS was a stellar one as he took over for Miller in the second inning and got the Dodgers into the fourth without allowing a hit.
Dodgers learned to appreciate opener strategy
The strategy of using the opener is a more recent one, but more teams have begun testing it out in recent seasons. For Roberts, he was among those that were slow to buy into the concept, but eventually came around on it.
“I think it’s one of those things where the Rays were out ahead of it, and by potentially necessity,” Roberts said. “But I think the league caught up and realized that it’s a way, it’s a really good way to prevent runs. And I think like all things, something that’s new is going to be met with some resistance.
“But there’s a reason why more teams are doing it now.”
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