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Torre weighing tough decisions on rotation

Torre weighing rotation options

LOS ANGELES -- Joe Torre had Clayton Kershaw prepared to start a possible Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals instead of Randy Wolf, but didn't talk about it.

There are strong indications that Torre will have the 21-year-old Kershaw start Game 1 of the NL Championship Series, too, and as a bonus, Torre's probably getting Hiroki Kuroda back after Kuroda missed the first round of the playoffs.

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The Dodgers manager, though, was confirming nothing Tuesday. He said he won't announce until Wednesday who would start the first two games of the series against the Phillies, to be played Thursday and Friday at Dodger Stadium. Against the Cardinals, Wolf started Game 1 and Kershaw started Game 2.

The Phillies in Game 1 are likely to start Cole Hamels, who beat the Dodgers twice in last year's NLCS. They are expected to have Cliff Lee pitch Game 3 in Philadelphia on Sunday instead of Game 2 because he needs the time to recover after pitching Monday's clincher in Colorado.

Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel still hasn't announced a Game 2 starter from a group of Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and maybe even former Dodger Pedro Martinez. But in Hamels and Lee, Manuel has a pair of aces on which to rely.

Torre has none by traditional standards, but it looks like he will have a playoff-tested Kuroda for this round after losing him for the first round with a herniated disk in his neck.

Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt made a day trip to Arizona to watch Kuroda pitch an Instructional League game while the rest of the club held a closed workout at Dodger Stadium. Kuroda apparently pitched so well, it sounds like he'll slide back into the rotation for Game 3 or 4 as long as his neck doesn't stiffen up by Wednesday. Kuroda last pitched in a game September 28.

NL Championship Series
Gm. 1 PHI 8, LAD 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 LAD 2, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 PHI 11, LAD 0 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 PHI 5, LAD 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 10, LAD 4 Wrap Video

"I was very comfortable watching him," Torre said of Kuroda. "There's probably a chance he'll be on the roster. We'll see how he comes out. He felt good. He got a little bored in the middle. His command was surprisingly good and he used all his pitches. He went five innings in 50 pitches and he threw [20] more in the bullpen after."

Kuroda was the only Dodgers starter to beat the Phillies in last year's NLCS and he also pitched six scoreless innings against them earlier this season, so if he's healthy, he's starting. Because of his game Tuesday, he wouldn't be available until Game 3 on Sunday in Philadelphia.

"No question his ability last year, the way he did late in the year and the postseason, is certainly a factor," Torre said.

With or without Kuroda, the Dodgers' rotation is a grab bag, especially with the emergence of Vicente Padilla as the current hot hand. Padilla won Saturday night's clincher in St. Louis with seven scoreless innings and he'll be one of the Dodgers' four starters, according to general manager Ned Colletti.

As for Kershaw, he again demonstrated maturity beyond his years by dueling Adam Wainwright to a no-decision when the Dodgers won Game 2 of the NLDS in a ninth-inning miracle last week. Kershaw pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on nine hits, striking out four with command good enough to allow no walks (except one intentionally). In a Game 1 start he would be pitching with one week rest.

How they match up
How the Dodgers' starting pitchers fared against the Phillies this season.
Pitcher Vs. Phillies
Chad Billingsley 0-0, 1.29 ERA
Jon Garland 0-2, 6.35 ERA
Hiroki Kuroda 1 start, 6 scoreless innings
Clayton Kershaw 0-2, 5.23 ERA
Vicente Padilla Did not face
Randy Wolf 1-1, 5.11 ERA

Kershaw was 0-2 with a 5.23 ERA against the Phillies this year and is 0-3 with a 6.64 ERA in his career. Both losses this year came by early June, before Kershaw turned around his season with a 2.56 ERA over his final 10 starts.

Torre held a 20-minute press conference in which there were a lot of things he wouldn't say even besides who would start Game 1. He wouldn't address what role Wolf would have (Wolf was in the bullpen Saturday night), whether All-Star Chad Billingsley would be dropped from the rotation to the bullpen or whether Jon Garland would be moved from the bullpen off the roster.

Torre wouldn't say if Ronnie Belliard would continue at second base, having displaced All-Star Orlando Hudson throughout the Division Series, although the hint was that as long as Belliard keeps hitting, he'll keep playing.

"I haven't looked at that yet," Torre said. "I wouldn't be afraid to [continue with Belliard]. I assume we'll see a few left-handers."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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