Not only have the Los Angeles Dodgers had to watch all of their second-half surges gain them almost nothing in the standings due to the continued success of the rival Giants, but their once deep pitching staff now must reckon with yet another injury after Clayton Kershaw exited his final regular season start early.
Not only did Kershaw leave his start against the Milwaukee Brewers in the second inning, but some of his postgame quotes afterward make it appear as if he is expecting to be out for a very long time. Playing in the postseason may not be a guarantee for Kershaw.
With Kershaw back on the mend and Trevor Bauer having been exiled from the game due to his ongoing legal troubles, the Dodgers might have arguably the best front three in the game in Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urias, but they need to figure out who will be the fourth starter in the postseason.
Dave Roberts could, and likely should, make this a collaborative effort. While Tony Gonsolin will likely eat up a ton of innings, David Price offers tons of value as a long relief pitcher and spot starter. If they want to go the opener route, they can do that thanks to Corey Knebel. This three-headed monster is the best Kershaw replacement they have.
The Dodgers must turn to David Price, Tony Gonsolin, and Corey Knebel.
We know Price’s accolades as a starter, but he’s proven that he can make the transition to a relief role. Price has pitched in 38 games, starting 11, and his 3.84 ERA and 107 ERA+ prove that he’s still got it at age 35. His postseason demons back in the day were noteworthy but he’s exorcised them before.
Gonsolin has been his usual solid self this season, pitching to a 3.23 ERA in 13 starts. Anytime a 127 ERA+ is considered a step backward from a statistical point of view, you know that he’s ready to handle the responsibility that comes with impactful October innings.
Knebel, a former All-Star closer with Milwaukee, has started four games as an opener and posted a 2.45 ERA. After just 13 innings in the prior two seasons, he looks ready to play a meaningful role in LA’s October push.
Obviously, losing Kershaw is not an ideal situation, as the combination of what he brings from a competitive and emotional perspective. While he will be impossible to replicate, the Dodgers can take solace in the fact they have more potential alternatives to lean on than most.
With Gonsolin’s improving consistency, Price’s experience, and Knebel’s heat, this trio could stand in for Kershaw with a great deal of aplomb.