Tony Gonsolin’s playoff role might not be what Dodgers fans expected

When Dodgers breakout star Tony Gonsolin hit the Injured List with a forearm strain on Aug. 29, fans feared the worst. After all, they’d just dealt with a few months where a nebulous Walker Buehler elbow injury had slowly morphed into something that necessitated the ace’s second career Tommy John surgery.

However “minor” this forearm issue seemed, such things are well-known precursors to reconstructive surgery. Getting hit with one at the tail end of August, for an already-playoff-bound team, seemed less than ideal.

The Dodgers insisted, at the time, that Gonsolin’s issue was “caught early,” and that a trip to the IL was mostly precautionary for the right-hander who sported a 16-1 record and 2.10 ERA. What that narrative ignored, though, was that even in a best-case scenario, where everything was minor and the shutdown solved the problem, Gonsolin would still be returning at the end of September after a month off, far less ready for battle than he was when he departed.

As October approaches, that secondary worry seems to have been right on the money.

Gonsolin threw another bullpen session this week in his “slow” return from the IL, and while the right-hander is busy building himself up, Dave Roberts acknowledged on Sunday that it would be unrealistic to expect him to be prepared to be a regular starter. Knew it.

Dodgers playoff rotation if Tony Gonsolin isn’t a ‘regular starter’

Tyler Anderson’s about to get upgraded from “Half a Piggyback” to Game 4 starter, it would seem.

Anderson hasn’t slowed down whatsoever in an All-Star campaign, and whether you trust him or not, the 15-4 record, 2.52 ERA and 1.01 WHIP speaks for itself. Andrew Heaney and Gonsolin will likely both be available to clean up behind a starter who falters, but the other three rotation spots will be occupied by a healthy Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías and Dustin May.

Smash cut to the other NL playoff fan bases shaking their fists, mouthing, “They can’t keep getting away with this!”

Being able to absorb the loss of an All-Star-caliber Cy Young candidate and still walk into the postseason with four starters you’re confident in, as well as two potentially dominant swingmen, is the Dodgers’ way at this point. Losing the best version of Gonsolin stings, but it’s not like having The Cat Man start fully healthy would quiet the doubters. They’d still be saying, “You trust Gonsolin, Heaney and Anderson in October? I mean … OK …”

And maybe it won’t work out. But it certainly has for nearly 150 games in a record-setting campaign so far. Things could be worse, even as Gonsolin predictably slow-plays himself into the postseason.