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Kuroda question not yet answered

October 14, 2009|Ben Bolch

The Dodgers' starting rotation could have a new look to it in the National League Championship Series.

Manager Joe Torre said Hiroki Kuroda could join the Dodgers' playoff roster and start against the Philadelphia Phillies depending on how he feels today after pitching a simulated game Tuesday in Peoria, Ariz.

Sidelined for the division series because of a bulging disk in his neck, Kuroda completed five innings in 49 pitches while facing minor leaguers before throwing an additional 21 pitches in the bullpen. He reported no complaints about his neck.

Torre said he wanted to see how Kuroda felt before deciding whether to insert him in his playoff rotation. The manager declined to name his starter for Game 1 on Thursday at Dodger Stadium or say whether he would go with a three- or four-man rotation.

But Torre said Kuroda's postseason success last season -- he went 2-0 with a 1.46 earned-run average in two starts -- could be a factor.

"That will carry a lot of weight as long as you're comfortable with the health stuff," Torre said. "But there is no question that the ability he had last year to pitch in the postseason and even late in the season in important games is a factor."

With Kuroda possibly rejoining the rotation by the middle of the series and Vicente Padilla cementing his spot with a seven-inning gem against St. Louis in the division series, General Manager Ned Colletti acknowledged the team was considering moving Chad Billingsley to the bullpen.

"That's a conversation we're having," Colletti said.

Being Manny again?

Colletti said he hoped left fielder Manny Ramirez's breakthrough performance in Game 3 of the division series carried over into the NLCS.

"From time to time he's perhaps lacked confidence," Colletti said of Ramirez, who had three hits and drove in two runs during the Dodgers' series-clinching triumph after having one hit in eight at-bats in the first two games of the series at Dodger Stadium.

"I look forward to that as a turning point for him to get him back on track and to let him feel good about who he is and how he plays."

Unmentionable Series

Torre sounded like someone who would rather spend an afternoon navigating the 405 than discussing a possible Freeway Series.

"I hope we're one of those teams" in the World Series, he said. "That's all I can say. For me to come out here and try to dream about who I'd like to play, well, I have to play Philadelphia. . . . When my friends, or so-called friends, and relatives talk about that I really dismiss that in a hurry. I just say we have a lot of work to do."

Going after them

Don't expect the Dodgers to treat any of the Phillies sluggers like Albert Pujols, the St. Louis first baseman they intentionally walked three times in the first two games of the division series.

"Probably the best pure hitter in this lineup is [Chase] Utley and he just happens to hit in front of that guy who hits 40-50 home runs every year," Torre said, referring to Ryan Howard.

Torre said he envisioned a scenario in which he would walk Howard to get to Jayson Werth with a right-handed pitcher, "but it's not something that I would be totally confident with only because of the tenacity of these guys."

Short hops

Even if the Dodgers won the World Series, Torre said, he would honor the final year on his three-year contract. "It would make the next year that much sweeter," he said. . . . The Dodgers conducted batting practice in their indoor cage at Dodger Stadium after rain fell in the afternoon.

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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